In Florida, for medical care it matters what county you live in.
By: Melissa M., Baker County
I’ve been a stay at home mom the past year taking care of my newborn daughter and do not have insurance. My partner and I recently moved to Florida from Ohio. He has insurance through his job, but because we’re not married, I can’t be on his health insurance. Before I had our child, I worked full time and had insurance through my employer. If I’d gone back to work right away, my entire paycheck would have gone to daycare, so I stayed home. Our daughter is a little older now, so I’ve been looking for work. It’s been very difficult even though I have an excellent job record. I was at my last job for eleven years. I’m a reliable person with excellent references. I’ve been able to find some part time work, but they don’t offer benefits to part time workers.
In Ohio as a stay at home mom, I had full Medicaid coverage. What’s crazy is that my partner made twice as much money in Ohio as he does here in Florida. We still qualified for Medicaid. When I applied for Florida Medicaid they gave me the Share of Cost Medicaid. I would have had to pay over $2,000 a month out of pocket before Medicaid would step in. That’s unreasonable for my family. We are behind on our rent and struggle to take care of our basic needs.
I’ve been suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. I went to my local mental health clinic but we didn’t qualify for help on their sliding scale because of being in the Medicaid Share of Cost program. So, my co-pay for services was going to be $175.00. I called and canceled the Share of Cost Medicaid just so that I could qualify for the clinic’s sliding scale program. It sounds ridiculous to me that having any coverage would actually prevent me from getting care. Once I canceled, I was able to get in on the sliding scale and now pay a $3 co-pay to see a doctor.
I recently went to my county health department (CHD) and saw a nurse because I was not feeling well. She ordered bloodwork and it came back that I have a hyperactive thyroid. They wanted me to do more extensive testing and directed me to the local hospital. The hospital has a financially needy program so I was able to see a doctor. They ran more bloodwork and performed an ultrasound that confirmed my hyperactive thyroid and found that I have a nodule on my thyroid. I learned that, because I have a hyperactive and not hypoactive thyroid, it’s harder for them to determine medicine dosage. The CHD and rural health clinic told me that they didn’t feel comfortable treating me without a consult from an endocrinologist who would likely want the nodule biopsied. There are no endocrinologists in Baker County, where I live, so I had to go over to Jacksonville in Duval County. My CHD and clinic sent letters out to various specialists to see if they would treat me, given that I don’t have insurance. I heard back from one doctor. He’s booked out so far that I can’t be seen for three months. In addition, they couldn’t tell me how much it will cost. The range is between $45 and $200. Since it’s a few months out, I can try to set some money aside. So, I guess it’s a good thing that I have to wait.
While I was waiting to hear back from specialists, I took it upon myself to personally call every endocrinologist in Jacksonville. I literally called every one of them that came up on a Google search and not one was willing to work with me. Some didn’t take patients without insurance, while others required a large deposit before they would see me. The Mayo Clinic was like that. They required a $5,000 deposit before they would even schedule an appointment with someone without insurance. One doctor’s office hung up on me as soon as I said I was uninsured. Some doctors I called partner with hospitals that have programs for low income people, but you had to live in Duval County. I feel like I’m being punished extra for being in a rural community. If I were just poor and uninsured in Jacksonville/Duval County, I could get the treatment I need.
I’ve been struggling with exhaustion, have trouble sleeping, have panic attacks and anxiety. Hyperthyroidism affects your metabolism as well so I’m always hungry, because I’m poor, I can’t afford to feed myself adequately. I was turned down for food assistance, but have recently reapplied. It’s all really overwhelming.