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Joe the Diabetic

Eric Lagergren

October 23, 2008

Okay, I know: The politically correct way of writing that headline would be Joe the Person With Diabetes. But it just doesn’t have that ring to it. So, since I’m trying to create a meme that’ll be picked up and plastered across Internet and talk radio and mainstream television media, to be debated and blogged about and used in political advertisements for next few national news cycles, I’m just gonna stick with Joe the Diabetic.

I am Joe.

And what, you may ask, is Joe’s story? Well, what’s your story? Aren’t you Joe? Aren’t you Jane?

And don’t the Joes and Janes have questions for both candidates running for president of the United States? Don’t you have a story that should be shared with 60 million viewers because it’s real, it’s scary, and it’s the way it is in this country?

We hear it all the time in the stump speeches: “I met Edith from Albuquerque the other day. Edith has diabetes. She told me…”; “Last week Tom from St. Paul said that he can no longer pay for his diabetes medications…” But I haven’t heard enough of it lately.

So Joe, Jane, Edith, Tom, and everyone else: What are your questions, your concerns?

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, 23.6 million people—7.8% of the population—have diabetes. That’s a lot of votes to court. Don’t we want some better answers, some answers that focus on us?

See, we’re talking about the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2006, and sadly, these deaths from diabetes are probably underreported due to other causes of death listed on certificates, causes that may have been due to complications from diabetes. Just little things: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease….

And what about some of those other complications, such as nervous system damage, amputations, dental disease, pregnancy complications? Not to mention diabetic ketoacidosis, or severe, life-threatening hypoglycemia

You see, my friends, this isn’t some little problem. But, my friends, you know this all too well.

Joe wants to talk about numbers. Total costs last year for this illness diabetes? $174 billion. That’s up $42 billion over the past five years.

Jane wants to quote directly from the American Diabetes Association: “In 2007, diabetes accounted for 15 million work days absent, 120 million work days with reduced performance, 6 million reduced productivity days for those not in the workforce, and an additional 107 million work days lost due to unemployment disability attributed to diabetes.”

Joe has a question to ask: One of the first things he’d like to know, if he could get an honest answer, would be to ask if really, truly, anything will change anytime soon under either candidate’s health-care plan. We’re talking about a huge, huge reform that’s going to be a long time in the making, regardless of how soon Washington gets on overhauling the health-care system.

Jane wants to know how long before she sees actual change? A decade? Two? How much of each candidate’s plan is lip service? How much of each candidate’s plan is actually something that can be put into practice within a timeframe that matters to us?

Joe goes local with his concerns. He writes his congressperson, calls his representative and senator. He feels he has to keep the conversation going.

And, because this particular Joe’s no expert on the health-care system, he just keeps talking about the staggering numbers. In his congressional district alone, the direct medical cost of diabetes in 2007 was over $199 million. The indirect cost: $123 million. That’s over $322 million in the Michigan 15th. That’s a lot of money.

Couldn’t some of those expenditures be reduced with better preventive care and better self-management? Wouldn’t affordable health care for people, before complications arose—wouldn’t that have gone a long way in curbing those huge expenditures?

As those of you who’ve read my other blog entries may know, I am, for the most part, happy with my health-care coverage. I know I’m fortunate. Millions of people don’t even have health insurance to be unhappy about.

I’ve been without heath insurance, been unable to pay for necessary medical care. And that was before my life with a chronic illness. I remember the anxiety, the worry, the stress.

Is there really something to be done about the health-care crisis? Is it possible to reform a U.S. health-care system that many believe is in shambles? Or, will reform continue to simply be something given lip service by candidates every four years?

I’m hopeful that there can be a change, but I also have my doubts.



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