Anthony John Lewis is a 45-year-old native Floridian whose part-time job in janitorial services doesn’t offer health insurance. He doesn’t qualify for Medicaid under the state’s stringent requirements either.
Although his HIV medications are covered under a federal grant, routine, preventive care or hospitalizations aren’t covered. If Florida expanded Medicaid, as have 36 other states, Lewis would have the healthcare he needs to stay healthy and continue working to support his family.
Lewis lives in Orange County with his wife and children. Since he struggles with various health issues, Lewis can only work part-time, which puts his income below the federal poverty level. Lewis is in Florida's “coverage gap,” ineligible for subsidies to purchase private insurance on the federal health marketplace while also ineligible for Florida's limited Medicaid program.
Without health insurance, Lewis is at risk of either forgoing timely preventive care that could catch problems before they become more serious and difficult to treat or incurring massive medical debt from visits to emergency rooms.
A few years ago, he went to the hospital emergency room with chest pains, thinking his life was in danger.
“Even though I didn’t have health insurance, I had no choice but to go to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack,” he said. Tests revealed he wasn’t having a heart attack, but he was treated for a heart condition and incurred $16,000 in medical debt from that visit, a sum he says he can never repay with his limited income and disabilities.
“Now, if I have any serious problems, I would be very afraid to go to the ER again,” Lewis said.
Lewis is grateful for the medications and healthcare he receives from federal Ryan White Act funding and the Orange County Health Department. But he needs actual health insurance that would cover him for all his healthcare needs and hospitalizations that would come with expanded Medicaid in Florida, both for peace of mind and to stay healthy.
Now, during the COVID-19 health crisis that is gripping the world, Anthony is worried he may have been exposed because he has not stopped working to self-quarantine. He was able to get tested once; but he is regularly re-exposed. He is a little worried the cold he’s fighting is COVID-19.
“I think I’ll be alright. I hope it’s just a cold,” he said.