Health Care

A career in construction, until a back injury

Timothy Lane, 47, has diabetes, high blood pressure, swelling in his knees and chronic back pain.
Timothy Lane, 47, has diabetes, high blood pressure, swelling in his knees and chronic back pain. 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.

After a lifetime working in construction and landscaping, Timothy Lane was fired when a back injury prevented him from returning to his job — and from keeping the employer-sponsored coverage that helped him see a doctor.

Lane, 47, has been uninsured for eight years. Though he applies for Medicaid every six months when he renews his food stamps benefits of $189 a month, Lane is always denied.

“You call and can’t hardly get through, and then they send you a letter. ... I talked to one person one time who said I’m not qualified because I don’t have a child under 18.”

Chronic back pain, swelling knees, diabetes and high blood pressure continue to keep Lane from finding work. He looks for odd jobs, but the day-labor pools where he looks usually want workers who can handle heavy machinery or carry heavy loads.

“I ain’t able to do the physical work I used to do,” he said. “I can do work, but for long periods of time my body starts aching. Sometimes when I get off work, I can’t hardly walk, all my joints are hurting and locked up.”

Lane is homeless, and alternates between sleeping on the streets and couch surfing. With no unemployment benefits and denied for Social Security disability benefits numerous times, Lane bides his time waiting for help with housing, employment and healthcare.

He sees a doctor at Camillus House, a homeless shelter, where doctors give him enough medication to get by, he said: an insulin kit, blood pressure pills and ibuprofen for his back.

“It just numbs the pain,” he said.