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    Miami-Dade County, Florida


    Despite the fact that Tracey has followed all the rules in life (having a professional career, working hard, saving for retirement), her medical debt has created havoc. She has lost her job, her car, almost lost her home, and nearly lost her dignity.

  • As a dedicated academic advisor for over 20 years, Tracey enjoyed helping young adults along their academic journeys. Tracey needed help, and though she dedicated her life to helping others, she could not keep herself afloat. In 2022, Tracey lost her father. This devastating loss, combined with brewing mental illness left Tracey, a natural people person, in a delicate state.


    Nearing the end of 2022, after being on her second medical leave since June, Tracey could not return to work because she had to tend to her mental health. To her dismay, her employer terminated her. With the growing mental strain, Tracey had a mental breakdown and was “Baker Acted”-- institutionalized against her will.


    The first hospital failed to properly tend to a wound on her foot. By the time she got home, Tracey, a diabetic, realized she had a serious infection on her toe and dangerously high glucose levels.


    Now unemployed and uninsured, shortly after being discharged, Tracey was in a hotel, trying to figure out her next steps. After a concerned friend called law enforcement to do a routine wellness check, Baker acted. Meanwhile, the infection on her foot continued to worsen. At the second hospital, Tracey received poor treatment and was shamed by the staff for her infection. The embarrassment Tracey felt while in their care only augmented her depressive symptoms and sense of isolation. Shortly after, she lost the infected foot to amputation.


    For over one year, Tracey has struggled with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks along with diabetes. Losing her job meant not only the loss of income, but also of her essential health insurance. During this time, Tracey has had to navigate a maze of social service agencies for support in meeting her basic needs. Like so many uninsured Floridians, she has been left with significant medical debt.


    “Medical debt has impacted my whole health by affecting my credit which went from good to bad. How can I regain financial footing when there is already fear of debt? I cannot afford a Marketplace plan and am fearful to ask for help due to the debt. If I had health care, I could go to the dentist, get routine blood work and check my vision. It would give me a measure of peace that I will not lose my other foot or help me get a proper prosthetic.


    “Having healthcare would alleviate the fear and pain I have at this time. It would allow me to get my dignity back so I can address the things that are hindering me from moving forward and being the best version of who I am”.

  • Medical debt has added significant strain on Tracey’s mental health as she navigates the health resources available to her to manage her care.


    Tracey’s case is not uncommon, unfortunately. Over a million Floridians could address their physical and mental health needs if the state expanded Medicaid.


    The irony of Tracey’s case is that while she has been repeatedly failed by the healthcare system, one of her family members was a doctor serving rural communities, who went above and beyond to care for people in need.


    “We should not have to use hope and prayer to meet our basic needs in America, " said Tracey. “I did everything I thought was right”.


  • Read STORIES Of Other Floridians

    Relying On Medicaid





    Former Foster

    Care Children

    Seniors and People With Disabilities

  • We are grateful to the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) for their support of the

    "Medicaid | The Lived Experience" STORIES Project.

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