Health Care

Piecing together medical care

Cynthia Louis, 57, receives a home visit from an FIU social work student.
Cynthia Louis, 57, receives a home visit from an FIU social work student. 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 25 years of working for Burger King, Cynthia Louis no longer was able to stand for long periods of time or to carry boxes of burger patties out of the freezer due to the pain in her arms and legs.

Soon after, in fall 2013, Louis lost her job. Since then, she has pieced together her medical care using the charity program at Jackson Health System and a free clinic through Florida International University.

Louis can see family doctors through both programs. But she often cannot afford the co-payments for specialists or tests, like X-rays. It costs her $25 for a visit with a family doctor through the Jackson program, but referrals cost $40.

“It’s frustrating,’’ she said, “when you don’t have the money to go to the doctor. You don’t have insurance, and then you’re trying to see what’s going on with you, but you can’t get there because there’s no funds or there’s no insurance.”

Louis, 57, has yet to receive a definitive diagnosis or a long-term treatment plan for her illness. Her family doctor has diagnosed polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disease. But the doctor wants a second opinion from a rheumatologist.

Louis has been waiting a year to see a specialist who can help chart a long-term course of care.

Though she has no income, Louis falls into the coverage gap because she has no dependent children and she’s not disabled. She has applied for Obamacare, Medicaid and Social Security disability benefits repeatedly — and she has been turned down each time.

“When I get sick, it shouldn’t be a problem. It shouldn’t be always about money,’’ she said. “I know the hospitals aren’t run for free. But if I’m sick, come on, you should be able to see me.’’