Meredith works part time between two spas as Licensed Massage Therapist and am is self-employed. She only earns around $9,000 and has student loans that supplement her income. She is a full time student of Master Public Health / disaster management- humanitarian relief at USF. She shares an apt with her older sister who receives SSI and SS with Medicaid related to her disability and she offers some care to her occasionally. She states, “We consider ourselves roomies and there is not any head of household and we do not share food due to differences in taste and that she does not like wearing her dentures so prefers soft foods only. We do not support one another and split bills by half.”
The last time she was insured was through Medicaid when her children were young so it’s been around 13 years since she has had health insurance. She stated those were the healthiest years of her life. Since then she has done her best to stay healthy. She has become resourceful in accessing care. She has a doctor friend in Key West who occasionally traded service for Meredith’s artwork. She hasn’t lived there since 2003 and only two months ago got a local Doctor with Family Health Centers in Lee County. When she first moved here they were not accepting new uninsured patients but have recently expanded.
In 2010 she had a bout with C-diff / pseudomembranous colitis, after antibiotics from dental work destroyed her gut flora. She was treated by her mother’s Doctor in Miami and could not afford follow up, blood work or ultrasound prescribed.
She has been to the ER twice in the past few years, “Whenever I have ab pain I think I may be revisiting c-diff as I learned that I can be susceptible to future outbreaks. I eat healthily, including pro-biotic foods. In 2012 I suffered abdominal pain for several days and ER said I had inflamed colon/ appendicitis / diverticulitis, which would be self-limiting. The CT scan bill was for over $ 6000 and ER and Doctor bill around $1000.” She was interviewed and eligible for charity aid for hospital bills but not the doctor portion. A few months ago she visited the ER once more for Ab pains which turned out to be muscle related (psoas) but during ultrasounds of right abdominal, determined fatty liver. This is when she was re-introduced to the Family Health Centers where the doctor recommended consuming Milk Thistle for liver health. “I have had a complete physical within the past two months, for the first time in years and was prescribed a colonoscopy, which I cannot afford. And a mammogram, which can be possible through a charity to help pay for uninsured. Blood work shows I Have high cholesterol and will try to modify with diet.”
Meredith states that she feels that Florida is shortchanging the working poor, disabled, students and others who cannot afford medical care, by not expanding Medicaid. “I have considered moving to Colorado, where my two sons have lived for the past ten years, because they have expanded Medicaid, know that women’s health issues are vital and seem more civilized than my native Florida these days.”
“The experience we had when my sister moved here from Dade County was deplorable. She had Medicaid and had recently fell and broke her hip. She had a pin and screws put in her leg and when she came to Lee County her privatized Medicaid was not accepted here and she was encouraged to enroll in a plan that serviced the area. Well they were not in open enrollment period and she was forced to go months before she could resume her PT and any follow-up treatment.”
Meredith continued on to share what she thinks access to health for all means, “What access for all means to me is that people of all socioeconomic status can have the same opportunities for the best health possible, instead of some of who now are compelled to ignore symptoms due to not affording doctor visits, or resist calling 911 for an emergency because they cannot afford to pay the ambulance and ER medical bills. When symptoms are allowed to fester into greater illness, the expense increases for us all. More importantly, health continues to deteriorate without a proper diagnosis and treatment. Prevention and treatment for illness should be affordable for everyone and not only the rich or insured. I not only have I become embarrassed for Florida, but for the “great” United States who is the only “developed” nation to not consider health inequity a thing of the past.