Health Care

A lifetime of respiratory illness

Genesis Rodriguez.
Genesis Rodriguez.

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.

Genesis Rodriguez was forced to miss her senior graduation bash in May 2012 because she was getting part of her right lung removed by surgeons at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Rodriguez, 20, has middle lobe syndrome, a chronic condition that has caused repeated bouts with pneumonia and a lifetime of respiratory illnesses, including asthma, shortness of breath and coughing fits that ultimately led surgeons to remove 40 percent of her lung.

At the time, Florida KidCare, the state’s Medicaid program for kids, covered the cost of the surgery, and the expensive medications and devices she needs.

Rodriguez’s monthly prescriptions to keep fluid out of her lungs — including Flovent, Advair and Albuterol — can cost as much as $4,000. That’s about half of her mother’s income last year of roughly $9,000 from a part-time job.

But in July, Rodriguez aged out of eligibility for KidCare. She was 19. Because she is not disabled, pregnant or a parent with dependent children, Rodriguez is excluded from Medicaid coverage in Florida.

A full-time student in an automotive repair class at Braman Motors through the Lindsey Hopkins Technical Institute, Rodriguez at times treats her chronic respiratory disease with over-the-counter drugs like Alka Seltzer and cough syrup.

For her, being uninsured means she cannot lead what feels like a normal life.

“I can’t even walk too far,’’ she said. “I can’t run, or go to the gym. ... It has a big effect on my dreams and what I want to do with my future.”