By Ashley L., Alachua County
It’s difficult to live without health insurance in Florida. Around 7 or 8 years ago, my insurance lapsed when I switched jobs and I wasn’t able to find affordable health care during that time period. I had insurance through my employer prior to switching jobs, but when I started my new job as a 911 telecommunications trainee, I needed to wait for my insurance to be reinstated. From July 2014 to around November 2014, I didn’t have an affordable way of seeing a doctor or receiving health services because my insurance plan wasn’t active. I have depression, and since I wasn’t able to pay for my medication during the time my insurance lapsed, I ended up experiencing medication withdrawals. This really affected my ability to work under stress. I also struggle with anxiety, so just going into work and being around a lot of people was overwhelming for me. By the time my insurance became active, it was too late because I had already jeopardized my job due to my emotional instability. As a result, I ended up having to resign from that job after a six-month training period. I think that if my insurance coverage had continued while I was transitioning to my new job, it would have been very helpful for me at the time.
Although I’m currently working, I’ve struggled to maintain gainful employment since resigning from my job because of the cyclical nature of my depression. Since resigning, I also haven’t had any form of insurance because of the high cost of premiums for insurance plans offered through the Marketplace. I applied for Medicaid at one point, but was told I didn’t qualify. Around 2015 or 2016, I ended up finding out about the Equal Access Clinic, which has helped me out a lot. I’ve been relying on health care services through the Equal Access Clinic for a while now. Knowledge about this clinic may have prevented the mental health complications that led to my resignation from my job as a 911 telecommunications trainee.
I eventually found out that I have treatment-resistant depression, which means that I acclimate to my medications. They weren’t producing the intended effects on me, so I no longer take those medications. At the Equal Access Clinic, I primarily receive services related to my thyroid issues. For mental health services, I went to Meridian Behavioral Healthcare a couple of times, but it became too difficult to continue going there because of the long wait times. Despite making my appointments weeks in advance, I still had to wait several hours to be seen, which caused me to miss work. Long wait times such as these and the amount of people around at walk-in clinics impact my social anxiety, which has sometimes affected my motivation to take care of myself. Nonetheless, I’ve been managing my mental health by receiving therapy services through the Equal Access Clinic’s free therapy night approximately once every two weeks.
If Florida were to expand its Medicaid program and I were to qualify for it, I would have more flexibility when it comes to appointment times. I’d be able to schedule appointments during the day, which would be a change from what I’m able to do now without insurance. Medications would also be more affordable. Overall, I would have an easier time accessing health care services.