By Thea G., Sarasota County
My family moved from Maine to Florida in 2014. We were very surprised by the way the health care system works here. Florida’s health system does not support people taking care of themselves. I’ve found myself constantly seeking and researching health care coverage options which is exhausting. It has literally taken a toll on me and my family.
When we first moved here, I started working for an attorney’s office that didn’t offer health insurance. I was told that I made just enough to not qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to take care of my family. I was really sick during that time and used the Emergency Room to see a doctor. I was in and out of the hospital with what doctors kept saying was an issue with my gall bladder. At one point I was throwing up water and they still couldn’t diagnose my issue. I was finally able to sign up for health insurance through my employer but got sick just before the health insurance coverage started. I literally got sick the day before! I remember it clearly because I went to the ER in pain on April 23 and the coverage was supposed to start on April 24. I crossed my fingers and prayed that they would admit me for an overnight stay so that my insurance would cover the cost of the visit. But the hospital staff sent me home, and I ended up with one more bill to pay.
Doctors eventually found out that I have Gastroparesis, and my stomach just wasn’t working. Right after my diagnosis I decided to leave Florida and returned to Maine, only for health care reasons. There was just no place down here to provide me with the health care I needed. I went to Maine for two months and got the treatment that I needed. I actually had a couple of primary care physicians tell me flat out that I needed to go out of state in order to get the care that I needed. When I returned to Florida I was approved for Florida Medicaid. I also applied for Social Security Disability at that time and was approved. I was surprised by how quickly my Medicaid and Disability were approved because most people that I talk to apply several times before they are approved.
I’m grateful that I have Medicaid, but I still struggle to get access to the services I need. For example, there are only two doctors in my area that accept my Medicaid right now. The problem is not that there aren’t enough doctors. The problem is that the doctors that DO accept Medicaid have a limited number of Medicaid spots. Once they’re full, you’re out of luck. It has taken me a while, but I’ve finally found a good primary care physician that has helped me get better. Another issue I’ve had with Medicaid is consistency with coverage. Medicaid pre-approved my acupuncture care, but after my treatments they decided they would not pay. Medicaid is now saying that my acupuncturist must work under the supervision of a primary care doctor for Medicaid to cover my bill. We just keep going back and forth! I was able to find a good chiropractor that Medicaid has approved, but just received another bill saying that Medicaid wouldn't be paying for the treatment.
My 21-year-old daughter has had difficulty with health insurance as well. When she moved out on her own, she had a part time job and didn’t qualify for her employer’s health insurance. When COVID-19 started, she was able to go through the Marketplace and signed up for Florida Blue health insurance coverage. She’s getting good care now. She has found a good network of doctors that use more natural treatment options than mainstream doctors. She is still limited in treatment options. She still struggles with arthritis which she’s had since she was two years old. It shouldn't have taken a pandemic for her to get the health care she needed.