In Need of Surgery, Free Clinics are My Saving Grace

By Tiffani W., Alachua County

I've been having medical problems with my back and knee. I've applied for Medicaid. I've also tried to get on Obamacare, but they were asking for $300 a month. I can’t afford that. I had Medicaid but lost it after my son graduated from high school. I tried applying for disability, thinking that would help me get some type of insurance, but still nothing. There’s a local hospital here in Gainesville that reaches out to me every few months to check my Medicaid eligibility. They call me every so often and ask a few questions, but they always end up saying that I’m not eligible.


Today is the first time I’ve visited the Equal Access Clinic. I came in to get an EKG and some other labs before I have back surgery. When calling around to find a regular practitioner to run my tests, someone told me about the clinic. I’m part of Shands Choice, a charity program which allows me to get treatments for my knees and back. Because of the issues I’ve been having, I needed some type of consistent care. I’ve been going to the orthopedic clinic for my knee and Shands Choice covers the cost of my treatments.


Not being able to see a doctor has been really bad for me because I can call, but I can’t be seen. There’s a waiting process, even if you go to the Emergency Room. You don't get seen as fast as somebody would with medical insurance or with Medicaid. I’ve had to use the ER pretty regularly, and those bills were piling up before I got into the Shands Choice program. It’s bad because those bills still hurt your credit score. It hurts you in the long run.


If I had access to health care, I could probably get the care, the proper care, that I need. I wouldn’t just have to settle for the providers that accept Shands Choice. I could probably see a doctor or specialist that could better help me so that I can get back to work. Then, I wouldn’t have to even depend on Medicaid.


I’ve always worked for the state, so not having access to care is hard for me. With the state, you have good health insurance. This has been a seriously tough transition. I’m accustomed to working and being able to care for myself.


If I could say one thing to legislators, it would simply be that Medicaid expansion would help us a lot. We really need Florida to expand. The sooner I get help, the sooner I can get back to work. We need help to get where we need to be.