Waiting on Cancer Diagnosis without Health Insurance

By Lisa M., Alachua County

I was married for 22 years and had health coverage the whole time I was married. However, I’ve been divorced for about 10 years and have been struggling to access the health services I’ve needed ever since the divorce. In any job I’ve had over the years, the health insurance offered by my employer has just been too expensive to afford. It would basically take my whole paycheck. I currently work at a factory and I live by myself. It’s hard to pay rent and make ends meet with what I’m making, yet I can’t receive any assistance like Medicaid or food stamps because I’m told I make too much money to qualify.


I signed up for insurance coverage through the Marketplace at one point, but it was active for less than a year because I couldn’t afford the copays I was charged every time I used it at a medical visit. Specialist visits weren’t covered by the insurance plan and I still had to pay for medications, so it was almost pointless to have it. Despite having insurance for that brief period of time, I still delayed medical care.


It’s important for me to receive consistent health care because I have a heart condition and asthma. About six months ago, I was told I have cervical cancer. I moved to Gainesville from Naples, FL a few months ago and my mother’s doctor told me about the Equal Access Clinic. I came here for the first time around August. During today’s visit with the doctor, I was told that I might have colon cancer. I think that going without consistent medical care due to being uninsured possibly affected my ability to catch these diagnoses earlier.


Regarding my oral health, it has been a long time since I’ve been to the dentist. While I was married, I attended dental appointments regularly, around once every six months. I’ve experienced dental issues like cavities, and at one point I had an issue where my teeth were separating from my gums. The dentist ended up having to take skin off of the back of my leg to sew my gums back to my teeth. I wasn’t able to keep up with dental visits after the divorce due to losing my insurance, but I had dental coverage through the Marketplace for a brief period of time. That was when I found out that there are different grades of dental cleanings depending on the state of your teeth. The higher the level of cleaning that you need, the higher the cost is. I don’t really understand this whole teeth cleaning grading system. I used to think dental work was dental work. Apparently that’s not the case anymore.


Without health insurance, I’ve had to do without things that I’ve needed in order to pay for my medication. I’ve made sure to stay away from people who are sick, and whenever I feel sick, I just stay home from work. I’ve had to go to the Emergency Room before, which is partly to blame for the debt I am in-- I have credit cards maxed out. Now, in terms of treatment for my recent diagnoses, the next steps are still to be determined. The doctors at the Equal Access Clinic are trying to help me get Medicaid, but I’m probably still making too much money to be eligible.


If Florida were to expand Medicaid and I were to qualify, it would mean a lot. It would mean that I could see the specialist I need to see. I would be able to get my medication without having to do without things that I need. Overall, it would mean that I could get the proper health care for my conditions.