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    Miami, FL


    Health insurance benefits are a job perk Julie Verschoore enjoyed as a marketing account executive. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her job and her health insurance ended.

  • Florida officials shut down the economy in March, indicating it said it would take a few weeks to “flatten the curve” and stop the virus from spreading and overwhelming the health care system. Six months, nearly 10,000 deaths and more than half-a-million COVID-19 positive cases later, the economy is not fully recovered and Julie remains among thousands of Florida residents forced to pay out of pocket for health care and medications. Or go without in the middle of a health pandemic.


    “My application for Medicaid was denied,” Julie says incredulously. She assumed Medicaid was where you turned when your employer-based care ended. “I learned that in Florida, Medicaid is very limited and I didn’t qualify for any of the categories listed.”


    Florida is one of 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid for uninsured adults, only allowing it for pregnant women, very poor parents and persons with disabilities.


    Getting a COBRA policy – to continue paying her employer-based plan – was out of the question. Without any income, she couldn’t afford the $800-$1200 monthly premium. She was unaware that under the Affordable Care Act, she had 60 days after her policy lapsed to get a health care plan through a federal marketplace special enrollment period. With her limited income, she might have qualified for a subsidized policy. Some states have also created expanded COVID-related special enrollment periods and extended the deadlines several times. Florida, however, doesn’t run its own marketplace and the federal government didn’t create COVID-19 extensions beyond 60 days. So she missed her chance.

    "I’ve basically depleted my savings account to cover basic expenses – rent and food,” Julie says. “I’ve paid for my prescriptions out-of-pocket until now

    but I’m running out of money.

  • Julie contacted the Florida Health Justice Project seeking help for health care needs and medical debt.


    “I have no income as a result of COVID and can not afford to go to the doctor or pay for my prescriptions,” she wrote. ‘”Health care would help greatly.”


    Julie was provided a list of low-cost or free public health clinics. These facilities and some hospitals receive federal funds to provide health care to the uninsured but they still require copays for visits, medicines and tests. She was also provided information on free COVID test sites and advised that treatment for COVID-19 is supposed to be covered by the federal government without surprise billing.


    Until the economy rebounds and she can find a new job – hopefully one with a good health insurance plan – Julie says she’ll have to depend on Florida’s safety net programs, rent assistance grants and food donations. And hope she doesn’t get the virus.


    * Stock Photo