• Iris

    Orlando, FL

     

    Hard working students and youth could face the loss of needed health coverage.

     

    Once the Public Health Emergency ends, Florida residents like Iris, a college student with asthma, could lose access to affordable healthcare needed for life-saving medications. 

  • Iris*  is grateful she is able to pursue her dream of a college education. 

     

    Today, the 20-year-old Florida resident balances  full-time classes at a state university with substitute teaching. She pays her rent and meets living expenses.   She’s able to  stay healthy in spite of her asthma and other health challenges because she has healthcare through the Florida Medicaid program. Medicaid pays for her check-ups and pricey medications like asthma inhalers.  

     

    The  continuous coverage requirement that is part of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE),  makes Medicaid available in Florida to Iris and others who have been enrolled in the program since it began in March 2020  —  though they may no longer be  technically eligible. Iris lives in fear of her Medicaid running out. 

    "Medicaid has been great for me because I've been able to find doctors that would take it and I could take care of my health needs,” she says.  “I’ve also been able to access emergency care at a hospital when I was suffering severe chest pains and thought I was having a heart attack..”

     

  • She worries about what will happen when she no longer qualifies for Medicaid after the PHE is  over and the state returns to normal  eligibility rules.  Because Florida is one of 12 states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,  eligibility for low income adults is extremely limited.  For 19 & 20 year olds like Iris, as well as low income parents, Medicaid  eligibility ends if their income increases over about 30% of the poverty level,  $346 for a single person.  If Florida joined the other 38 states and D.C., adults could earn up to $ 1,564/month and stay covered. 

     

    “I couldn’t afford to pay for check-ups and medications without health insurance.  "Right now most of my income goes to pay my rent and food and gas to get to work,” she says. “Even then, I fall short and rely on credit cards," she says. “I don’t have anything extra for doctors or medications.”

     

    Iris  may qualify for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance policy if she meets the minimum income requirement to receive subsidies. But if  her income is less than the federal poverty  level,  she would not be eligible for the ACA’s federal subsidies that help pay the monthly premium and provide cost-of-share assistance for co-pays and deductibles.

     

    With the PHE’s continuous coverage requirement, Florida’s Medicaid enrollment has grown by over 20% to more than 5 million, including hundreds of thousands of whom are no longer technically eligible.  Many of those,  like Iris,  may be in the “coverage gap” — not making enough  income to qualify for an ACA policy and also ineligible for Medicaid under Florida's limited criteria.Ending the PHE’s continuous Medicaid coverage before there is a “fix for the coverage gap”  — will mean that millions in the non expansion states will lose needed health care and be left with no path to affordable coverage."

     

    *Iris is a pseudonym of a Florida resident who wanted  to share her story without using her real name

     

    *Stock photo