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© 2015 by Faith in Florida

USF grad with epilepsy fights for Medicaid expansion

February 20, 2015

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Chad Riese, 23, is a recent University of South Florida graduate and like many others has student loan debt. But, add an extra $100,000 on top of that with medical fees from hospital visits.

 

"Within a six-month period I started having random seizures, about five of them and finally in January of 2013, I was diagnosed with epilepsy," he said.

 

He now works two jobs to pay off his debt. He fits within what you call the coverage gap - not making enough to pay for medical insurance but not poor enough for Medicaid. Florida is one of few states that hasn't accepted Medicaid expansion and has denied billions of dollars in federal money to do so.

 

"I need help," he said.

 

"There's a lot more people like me that need the help so that's also my thing today to represent them."

 

Riese made his way to Tallahassee this week to lobby lawmakers to make a difference by expanding Medicaid. It's estimated that more than a million people in Florida fit within the coverage gap.

 

Pastor Greg James is with Faith in Florida. He's also calling on lawmakers to make a change with healthcare.

 

"Daily you're talking about six people that are in the gap of losing their life," James said.

 

"Let's make sure, immediately, that we can close this gap on Medicaid and let's get this million plus insured."

 

If state lawmakers expand Medicaid and accept federal dollars, the Health Care for Florida coalition believes 1.2 million Floridians would be covered and it would create 65,000 jobs in the first six years.

 

Calls to several lawmakers Friday were not returned, as they travel back to their home districts from committee week in Tallahassee.