By: Jessica B., Orange County
When the Affordable Care Act first went into effect I was trained and hired to be a Navigator. I helped people apply for health insurance through the Marketplace. Many of the people that I met didn’t qualify for any financial assistance to help them pay for their health insurance. They fell into the Medicaid Gap. Essentially, they couldn’t qualify for Medicaid because Florida chose not to expand Medicaid. So, we failed a lot of people in this State. I worked as a Navigator for two years before joining another company that paid for me to get my health insurance agent license. Today I’m a small business owner.
I find that people often have a misconception about the type of person that doesn’t have health insurance. Many would find it strange that I am employed, in fact, I own my own business, yet there are times that I have had to go without health insurance. Sure, I know firsthand the benefits of having health insurance coverage, but my income fluctuates. There have been months when I could not afford my monthly premium. I’ve been on that side where you work your heart out and do your best to make an income but can’t afford healthcare. So, you let things go.
When I’m without coverage I visit my local community health center when I’m sick. They take payment on a sliding scale, which usually means I can afford to see a doctor. However, when I can’t afford it, I just ignore any pain I’m having. If it’s really bad I end up going to the Emergency Room. It’s interesting because in Orange County, the community health center will refuse to see you if you have a high outstanding balance. However, our Emergency Room has an agreement with the health center that requires you to see a doctor at the health center within two days of leaving the ER. Sometimes when people owe the health center a large amount, they will just go to the ER so that they can been seen at the health center two days later at no charge.
As an agent I’ve witnessed under-insured clients refuse to go to the doctor when they are sick. They have insurance through the Marketplace, but their deductibles and premiums are so high, they are afraid to use the insurance. I try to encourage my clients to get a plan with better coverage, if they can afford it. Because, in the end, it’s worth it.
Having been on both sides of the healthcare scale, I can clearly see the need for change. I’m happy that the ACA and tax credits are helping people. But far too many Floridians still need to get health coverage before we can call this a total win. I believe expanding Medicaid will allow more individuals and families to get the coverage and care they need.