Guliet Prince, a 39-year-old mother, lives with her husband and children in northwest Miami-Dade County. She is a part-time distribution center employee. Her employer doesn’t provide healthcare.
Guliet’s position puts her on the frontline of essential workers that are in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although her employer has increased sanitation at the facility and requires workers to wear gloves, masks and use hand sanitizer, she is worried of contracting the virus and bringing it home to her family. She said three workers at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19. The virus puts Guliet and her family in a difficult position, as she is worried how she would pay for treatment, including hospitalization, if a family member became infected and suffered complications of the virus. The only family member with insurance is her 12-year-old son who has Medicaid health insurance. Her husband and 20-year-old year old daughter are currently unemployed and Guliet is the family’s sole source of support.
“I tried to get on Medicaid, but they said I made too much money even though I only work part-time and earn a low wage,” Prince said. “Our total household income is $22,000 annually for a family of four.” (In Florida, the parents of minor children are only eligible for Medicaid if they make less than 35% of poverty, or less than t $ 8,400 year for a family of four.
Ms. Prince tried to purchase an “Obamacare” (Affordable Care Act - ACA) health insurance policy but because her family income falls below the federal poverty level they are not eligible for marketplace subsidies. Under the ACA as passed by Congress, those below the poverty level were supposed to get Medicaid. A tragic irony of the Supreme Court decision making Medicaid expansion a “state option,” is that in non-expansion states like Florida, the cost of marketplace insurance is prohibitive, and the low-income Floridians fall into the “coverage gap.”
Ms. Prince was told that her policy would cost $800 in monthly premiums.
“I couldn’t afford that,” Prince said. “It was so hard to hear this. I didn’t know where to turn for help. I wanted to quit my job to be able to get health insurance again. And now, with COVID and the dangers of getting the virus at work, I am tempted. But I couldn’t, of course, because I need to help support my family. It is hard to live this way. And even more stressful in the time of COVID. It’s like a see-saw.”
Ms. Prince said she wants to share her story because she said she knows there are other women, other teens, other families like hers in Miami and Florida, struggling to raise their families, worried of getting sick and having nowhere to turn, afraid of not being able to work if they get sick.
“If Florida expanded Medicaid like other states did, I would have health insurance,” Prince said. “Working poor people in Florida, people like me who work in stores, or clean houses, people who earn minimum wage, people who work part-time – we would all qualify for Medicaid..”