Thomas developed several ailments that went untreated due to a lack of health insurance. If Florida had expanded Medicaid, Thomas would have been able to afford routine checkups that could have prevented him from being physically unable to work.
About eight years ago, however, his ankle swelled up to the size of a grapefruit, and he was unable to continue with his photography job where standing was a requirement. He also developed tendinitis in his wrist and suffered from rectal bleeding from untreated hemorrhoids. Whenever he stood up, he would begin to bleed severely. All these ailments led to his unemployment. Without health insurance, he was unable to get treatment and had to stop working.
“It was hard to transition from being a breadwinner to convincing myself that if I didn’t quit working, I would not be able to walk again,” he said.
Eventually, Thomas was able to get temporary healthcare insurance through Orange County Health Department. Through this insurance, which has to be renewed periodically, he was able to take care of his hemorrhoids and stop the bleeding. He was also able to get an annual physical, which he hadn’t had in decades. The physical revealed he had high blood pressure and thyroid disease. He is receiving low-cost medications for both illnesses through the Orange County health program and he pays a small fee for doctor’s visits.
Thomas lives with his wife, Sheila, in a small trailer in the Orlando area. They recently moved there after being evicted from a house they lived in for eight years. The landlord sold the property and an investor came in to fix the house up to resell. The couple lost access to many appliances they had bought over the years when they were forced to leave with just two weeks’ notice. Their current housing is temporary until they can afford a better place, but they are grateful to have found a place to live.
Thomas turns 62 this year and plans to take early retirement in order to begin receiving his retirement income of $800 a month. With his wife’s retirement income, they will have a combined monthly income of $1,600.
Thomas is in need of dental care. He lost his front teeth several years ago. He was able to see an emergency dentist for an infected tooth through the Orange County health program but otherwise does not get regular dental care and can’t afford to see a dentist. He needs healthcare to continue to treat his illnesses and receive low-cost medications.
The Florida Health Justice Project, a nonprofit organization, recognizes that access to quality and affordable health care is a human right and engages in comprehensive advocacy to expand health care access and promote health equity for vulnerable Floridians.
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