New to Florida, Health Insurance Sticker Shock

By Sage R., Alachua County

I’ve only lived in Florida for about five years. I’ve experienced being on and off health insurance since I was very young. But since I’ve been here, I was on Obamacare for a quick second. Then, I lost it. I honestly don’t understand what happened. All of a sudden, they were telling me that I needed to make a bunch of money – much more than I could make as an unemployed person. I thought I was able to catch it before they said I owed money, but somehow, I still ended up owing the IRS $500 on my taxes. I never really understood what happened and just gave up altogether. Obamacare was going to cost me around $1,300 a month. So, my experience being uninsured in Florida is that it seems like nonsense if you don’t understand it. I’m not employed full time and I’m a student, which of course affects my ability to get health insurance.

I feel lucky that I’ve not gotten terribly sick since I’ve been in Florida. I had a hospitalization, but I actually left the state and went to live with friends before being hospitalized. Part of the reason I left is because I knew the health care system in Florida was so terrible. I was able to get the care that I needed which was a relief because I went into the hospital knowing that I wouldn’t come out with financial issues. I went out of state because I can’t understand what’s happening in Florida and can’t ever predict how much health care is going to cost here. Also, I have just accepted that everything in Florida is hard and harsh when it comes to medical situations.

I feel lucky that I found the Equal Access Clinic to help me with my hormones. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to take hormone treatments if it were not for Equal Access. I still have to pay out of pocket for my testosterone, but the clinic allows me to get my bloodwork done for free. The only reason I can work towards my gender in a medical way is because I have free access. I have Good Rx, and I’m on a CVS discounted medication program which keeps the cost of my prescriptions down.

I lived in Oregon and Washington and they have amazing health care. Everything is covered, even dental. I still see my psychiatrist on the West Coast once every three to six months. She charges me $70 but that’s because I’ve built a relationship with her over seven years. The Equal Access Clinic is now my primary health clinic. Everything happens here for me.

If Florida expanded Medicaid, I could get dental care. It almost makes me want to cry thinking about getting dental care. I’ve never had access to dental care here. I think that’s the thing that’s going to cause me a lot of pain in the near future. I already can feel my fillings falling out and chipping away because I haven’t been able to get any dental care in the last five years. Dental care would be huge for me. The dental school here at UF only really does cleanings, and I know I need more than that.

Living without health insurance means that you’re constantly living in fear. I worry about a car accident or any health accident. I feel like, if something actually happens to me, I’m not going to get care. I know that for sure. People who are uninsured don’t get good health care. Even if you go to the emergency room and a hospital is forced to give you treatment, you always know in the back of your mind that you’re not going to get the same care you would if you had a fancy insurance card.