Health Care

Seven years without a checkup

For two years, Florida legislators have refused to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. Their decision left an estimated 850,000 Floridians without healthcare insurance in the "coverage gap." Here are some of their stories.

The Great Recession of 2008 hit Carlos Cuervo very hard.

Once a successful owner of a fleet of automobile transport trucks, Cuervo said he went from an annual income of $300,000 to penniless in the course of a single year.

“When people started losing their houses, they stopped buying cars,’’ he said. “Once they stop buying cars ... the used car lots aren’t moving cars, and they’re not calling me to take their inventory to auction. And that’s what I did.”

Cuervo’s contracts with Miami’s largest car dealerships dried up, he said. Soon after that, Cuervo divorced his wife, who has custody of their 9-year-old son, and moved into a storefront, courtesy of a friend who owned a shopping plaza.

Since then, he has been uninsured — and ineligible for Medicaid in Florida.

Cuervo, 40, hasn’t been to doctor in seven years. Though he considers himself healthy, he recently had a skin condition with sunburn-like pain, he said, and muscle and tendon tightness.

“I was actually very scared,” he said. “It was extremely painful.’’

Unable to pay for a doctor visit, Cuervo turned to the Internet, trying vitamins, changing his diet, and Benadryl in case it was an allergy.

The pain is gone, but Cuervo said he doesn’t know why or whether it will return. If he received Medicaid, he could visit a doctor and find out.

In March, he began a full-time job in sales and moved into an efficiency apartment in Medley. He now earns a paycheck that should make him eligible for government help to buy a health plan — ironic, he thinks, since he didn’t qualify for any help when he was destitute.

“Now,’’ he said, “I’ll be making enough money for Obamacare.’’

- DANIEL CHANG

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