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Stories from the Coverage Gap

Last week, Young Invincibles co-hosted the Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit in partnership with the White House. The event focused on best practices for enrolling young people successfully  in health care coverage, and outlined strategies to address barriers to care. Many Millennials are not well-acquainted with their health care system, often a result of insufficient or few resources in their communities, or simply living in states that have not expanded coverage. Young Invincibles has teamed up with Florida Chain to share stories from Florida–a state that has not expanded affordable coverage, leaving 24 percent of its youth uninsured. These Millennials are only a handful of the millions who go uninsured in 19 states across the nation. Follow the links to read their entire stories.

Harry Melo, 25, Miami

Harry Melo comes from a state that has expanded Medicaid. He came to Florida in January 2015 from New York to pursue his education. Harry assumed that since he had health care coverage in New York he would have the same benefit in Florida. “Prior to leaving New York, I visited my doctor to have all my routine exams and happy to share that I continue to be healthy.” Harry takes his health seriously, so he was disappointed to find out he was not eligible for health care coverage as a student.

“Why should a student like myself, who visited his doctor for years on average twice a year, be forced to spend thousands of dollars on a decent coverage?” Harry has no source of income other than his student loans because he is a full time student. Harry is going through the same thing thousands of other Florida students are. They are focused on their studies, to think about adding on extra income so they can  qualify for subsidies in the market place. Since Harry moved to Florida in January and only had until February 15 to figure out a way to be eligible for marketplace assistance, he went uninsured. He now finds himself in the coverage gap.

Molly O’Brien, 19, Jacksonville

Molly O’Brien is a 19-year-old college student. She suffers from Paroxysmal Nonkinesigenic Dyskinesia (PND), which is a disorder of the nervous system that causes periods of involuntary movement. PND is extremely rare (1 in 5 million people). Molly exclaims, “I could be too excited and my body starts jerking.” This along with other triggers can cause the involuntary movements associated with the disease. Other triggers include, but are not limited to, caffeine, alcohol, and stress.

Molly does not have access to her parent’s coverage, nor does she have consistent access to Medicaid coverage. Molly at this time is uninsured and falls through the Florida Coverage Gap. She suffers daily with involuntary movements and carries around a rubber mat so she can avoid injuring herself and getting more bruises on her body. Molly does not have access to quality, affordable health care. As a full time student that is unemployed (due to her disability), Molly cannot afford private health insurance. “I need to be able to see a specialist for my disease and have a reliable health care provider I can go to at any time, right now I have no one to talk to about my disease.” Molly like many other Floridians falls through the screening guidelines for disability and Medicaid coverage in Florida as it stands today.

Andrew Becker, 25, Orlando

Andrew Becker is a 25-year-old from Orlando, Florida. He makes a good living as a self-employed full time musician. Andrew, like many others young adults has never had health insurance. Growing up his parents paid out of pocket for his medical expenses. As a young adult, he did not have the sense of urgency to get health insurance.

Last January, Andrew was with a touring band traveling from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton when someone rear-ended them causing him to spin into the center medium. The accident caused him to break three of his ribs, his nose, and three herniated disks in his back, and had bad muscle issues in his back for eight months following the accident.

Andrew stated that not having insurance at the time of his accident really turned his life upside down. “This ruined my credit, destroyed my finances, and today I am still trying to recover from that financially.” This is when he knew he had to sign up for health insurance.

Andrew has for the most part recovered from that accident physically, but one thing this has taught him is the importance of having health insurance all the time. Andrew realizes the importance of having health insurance now more than ever “It wasn’t until the car accident that I felt the sense of urgency to have health insurance, and then it was too late. I would definitely recommend younger people take their health seriously and get health insurance; you never know what can happen.”

Andrew was able to enroll successfully onto the marketplace and sign up for a low monthly plan where he pays $48.33 a month for health insurance with the help of a navigator. He stated that having this health coverage before his accident would have made his life easier, that is why he urges young adults to sign up for health insurance right now so they don’t go through what he has gone through this past year.

For more stories like these, visit Lives On the Line,  a documentary and microstory collection on Floridians who fall in the gap, and have struggled to maintain healthy lifestyles.