While waiting in line for a free sandwich at the St. Vincent de Paul food panty, Robbie James, 46, dabbed steadily at his red, watering left eye with a paper napkin; the rough texture adding subtle relief to an uncertain ailment. Robbie visits the panty by bike in the early morning for a free lunch sandwiches for his work break.
Robbie, a detailer at a nearby corner lot car wash, is uninsured and cannot afford to purchase health insurance. For weeks, he has endured the discomfort of an unchecked eye problem and the worry that accompanies the lack of medical treatment. Robbie had basic care and access to doctors through a temporary health insurance plan provided to low-income Hillsborough County residents. But the insurance expired due eligibility issues and Robbie has been with out health insurance since 2010.
Like many, Robbie avoids going to see a doctor because he cannot afford the co-pays associated with the clinics in the area. “If something goes wrong, I’ll just have to go to the ER and hope that they’ll take me,” he said. Robbie noted that even at 46, he is not feeling “very young anymore” and is beginning to have concerns about his health.
As he folded his sandwich into a plastic bag and mounted his aging bicycle, Robbie provided his opinion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and his lack of health insurance, he said, “Everybody needs it. I’m getting old. I need to go see the eye doctor. But I just can’t afford it.” Since the Florida Legislature adjourned in May 2013 without expanding Medicaid, many Floridians like Robbie will remain uninsured, unhealthy, and dependent on charity care or emergency room visits.