I’ve been uninsured since I was 18. Now I count on a free local clinic for my health care.

By Shay P., Alachua County

Since I was 18 years old, I’ve never had health insurance. It’s just not affordable. The last time I was looking to enroll, I think it was going to cost me around $240 a month. My rent alone costs $900, and I live alone so I don’t split that bill with anyone. It’s out of my budget to pay $240 monthly for health insurance. I tried applying for Medicaid before, but I don’t have children and was told I make too much to qualify for it anyway. I work in the hair industry and while I’ve been offered employer-based coverage, that option isn’t affordable for me either. It wouldn’t cost me $240 per month, but it would be pretty close to it.


I’ve been going to the Equal Access Clinic for about two years now for health care services. I found out about it through a friend. Before knowing about it, I was basically going without health care. If I got sick, the only option for me was to go to the Emergency Room. The problem is that when you go to the E.R., they charge you for the services along with the equipment used for each service. On one occasion at the E.R., I had to get an I.V. When the bill came in, I did some research about everything I was charged for. They charged me $320 in total for the I.V., but what shocked me the most was that I was charged $10 apiece for the gauze that was used. It wasn’t any different from gauze that I could buy from Walmart, yet I was getting charged $10 apiece for it! And that was only a fraction of the bill. I probably have like $100,000 in hospital bills somewhere out there because of E.R. visits.


When it comes to dental health care, I’ve ended up having to pay for services out of pocket over the years as well because I don’t have dental insurance. When you’re experiencing something like tooth pain, it doesn’t just go away. It just gets worse, and you can’t live in pain. When that happens, you have no choice but to see a provider and pay out of pocket for the services. I’ve needed to pay $100 in the past just for the visit. Nevertheless, in my experience, those services haven’t cost me as much as regular health services.


If I’m not experiencing dental pain, I go without dental care. That means I don’t see dental providers for routine visits. Before having to pay a dentist out of pocket, I once tried going to a dental clinic in Gainesville that provides services for individuals without dental insurance. However, I didn’t meet their criteria for services. I was told I make around $700 over the limit to meet criteria, so I ended up getting turned away.


Since finding out about the Equal Access Clinic, I’ve been going there for different kinds of primary care services, including routine visits, medication refills, evaluations, and bloodwork. However, I wouldn’t be able to go there if I needed to get major tests or procedures done. If I had an illness like cancer, for example, they would be able to refer me out. Nonetheless, the services I’d be referred to wouldn’t be free, and if they were, that wouldn’t be the case until later down the road. If I were to need a specialized service done now, I’d have to pay for it.


If I qualified for Medicaid or had some form of insurance, I would definitely go to the doctor way more. I would probably be healthier and happier if I had health insurance because I’d know that I can get the help I need if something was wrong with me.