Health Care

A move from NYC to Miami, a loss of coverage

Harry Melo, 28, an FIU graduate student from New York.
Harry Melo, 28, an FIU graduate student from New York. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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.

Harry Melo moved from Queens in New York City to Miami in January to pursue a graduate degree in higher education administration at Florida International University.

It wasn’t until he arrived in Florida, his car loaded with belongings, that Melo realized he would no longer have health insurance.

In New York, Melo, 28, qualified for Medicaid at no cost to him other than a few dollars for prescriptions. But when the full-time student tried to sign up for Obamacare in January, he learned about the coverage gap for the first time.

“I was like, ‘What do you mean the gap?’ I’m not employed. How am I supposed to pay for it? I was actually heart-broken.”

Melo had just accepted thousands of dollars in student loans, he said, but considered returning to New York. He could have studied for his degree there, avoiding out-of-state tuition and dorm costs while keeping health insurance.

But because he is healthy, he decided to stay, turning to FIU’s student health clinic for routine care, and filing for an exemption in the hope of avoiding the penalty for not having health insurance.

He wonders how many others have moved to Florida and encountered the same roadblock.

“They come here for happiness and a new beginning and then they find out that part of that new beginning is that they might not be insured, and it’s up to them to figure out,” Melo said.