Health Care

A few years shy of Medicare coverage, and caught in the gap

Vanessa Wilcox
Vanessa Wilcox

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.

When Vanessa Wilcox was laid off from her job as a phlebotomist at a research facility in 2013, she was only a few years away from qualifying for Medicare.

Caught in the coverage gap, Wilcox, 61, found healthcare through a Florida International University mobile clinic in exchange for allowing students to work with her.

Wilcox has high blood pressure and other medical conditions, including an infection that caused a recurring fever.

A phlebotomist for more than 25 years, Wilcox said she has been unable to find full-time work that also provides health insurance benefits.

She earns about $700 a month from a boarder who rents a room in her home, financial assistance from her adult son and odd jobs decorating and cleaning homes.

In 2013, Wilcox went to the emergency room at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood for night chills, sweats and numbness. A four-day stay resulted in a $32,000 hospital bill that she cannot pay.

Wilcox said when she first learned that she was in the coverage gap, she was confused.

“I was blown away,’’ she said. “Why would I have to be 65, and why would I have to have young children? And why would I have to be disabled? I didn’t get it.”