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Life in Chronic Pain and in the Coverage Gap

By: Shandee H., Polk County

I currently do not have health insurance. I have always had back issues and suffer from muscular skeletal disease and degenerating bone disease. Everyday life is pure hell for me because of chronic pain. My bones are deteriorating as I sit here.

Last year my pain got to be really bad, so I moved to Kentucky to live with my daughter for a few months. In Kentucky everyone that needs Medicaid is able to receive Medicaid. I was able to get a primary care doctor and saw specialists who diagnosed me with osteoarthritis. I had to leave two jobs in Kentucky because my back pain was so severe. I could barely move most days. I would love to have stayed in Kentucky, but my body can’t withstand the cold weather. I ended up filing for disability and was denied. I’ve appealed and have a hearing next week. If I’m approved, I can get the health insurance I need.

In 2015 I qualified for Healthcare District, a program in Palm Beach County. I’d been diagnosed with cervical cancer and had coverage for 3 months. That was just enough time for me to have a full hysterectomy and biopsy of my liver and kidneys, areas where the cancer had spread. I wasn’t able to have the follow up mammogram or appointments because my insurance ran out.

I was recently told that I need neck surgery, but I can’t afford to pay for it. Every day is a battle for me. Some days I wear a neck brace because it feels like I have a ton of bricks on top of my head. I refuse to take “hard core” medication, and I know that if I take ibuprofen for a long time it will affect my liver and kidneys. I don’t want to go from one problem to another. My youngest grandson just turned two years old, and I can’t even pick him up. I can’t lift a jug of milk or a two liter can of soda. I can only write for so long.

When the pain gets really bad, I go to the Emergency Room at the hospital. That doesn’t really help, though. They tell me what’s wrong with me and what I need to do to fix it. But I already know what’s wrong with me and how to fix it. But how can I fix myself without health insurance?

If Florida expanded Medicaid I would be suffering, but not as bad. There are no free health clinics where I live. I can’t purchase the medications that I need because I’m not working right now. My pet cat is my emotional support animal. She’s my world and helps me make it through the day.

I have had dentures for 25 years. I know that they need to be replaced but can’t afford it. I would also like to see an eye doctor because I know that I need stronger glasses. I just can’t afford that either.


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