Health Care

When the caregiver can't get care

Paula Bazain, 55, comforts her ill husband, Martin Bazain, 58, in the kitchen of their Miami apartment as their grandson, Giovanny, 5, eats lunch at the table.
Paula Bazain, 55, comforts her ill husband, Martin Bazain, 58, in the kitchen of their Miami apartment as their grandson, Giovanny, 5, eats lunch at the table. 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.

A full-time caretaker for her disabled husband, Paula Bazain, 55, feels as though there is no one to look out for her.

Bazain has cared for her husband, Martin, 58, since he was diagnosed in 2010 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD — an illness that makes it hard for him to breathe without an oxygen tank.

The Bazains, who left Cuba for Pensacola in 1978, raised a family in Florida’s Panhandle. Martin became an air-conditioning technician, with a job that provided health insurance. Paula ran a cash register for Western Union.

After Martin fell ill, he qualified for Social Security disability benefits and now has health insurance through Medicare. But Paula, who has diabetes, high blood presure and high cholesterol, falls into the coverage gap.

Her husband’s monthly benefit check of $1,275 means their household earns too much to qualify for Medicaid in Florida — but not enough for government help to make a private plan more affordable under Obamacare.

In addition to tending to her husband, Paula cares for the couple’s three grandsons, ages 5, 7 and 11, all of whom live in Bazains’ small apartment in North Miami.

“Sometimes I don’t feel good because my sugar is high and my blood pressure is high,’’ said Paula, adding that she last bought diabetes medication in 2013. “So, I have to ignore that and keep going.”

- CHABELI HERRERA

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