Joe the Diabetic

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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  • Jan Chait

    Hey Joe

    Well, lemme see … Here’s a quote for you:
    “While they can find $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, they can’t find the money we need for the NIH. Because what is Alzheimer’s and cancer compared with Goldman Sachs?”
    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to insurance industry executives in September, on how the government’s bailout of Wall Street investment banking firms clearly indicates Congress will never put health investments as a top priority.

    As far as presidential candidates go, the only one I could find who actually did something was Sen. Hillary Clinton, who introduced legislation in May 2007 to increase funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for research adn education. You can read about it at

    But wait: She isn’t a candidate any more.

    I did look for something substantive from the others, but couldn’t find anything offhand. Maybe somebody else can.

    Also, I will confess that Hillary was in town during the campaign and I entertained getting press credentials for her visit so I could ask her about diabetes funding, so I had looked her up before.

    Jan(e) Chait

  • Cathy

    I don’t work. If my husband loses his job or decides to retire, I’m without health care. Since I am diabetic and had a heart attack at age 53 – soon after I was diagnosed with the diabetes – getting health insurance on my own will be very expensive. How are we going to do it? My husband is 3 years older than I am. Is it fair to ask him to work until I am eligible for Medicare and he is 68 so I have no gap in health insurance? How are we going to afford all the medications we need? He’s also diabetic. I have seriously considered divorcing him because it doesn’t seem fair to him. I worked for 30 years am am just tired now.

    My question to those who will be running our country and making our laws is how will you make my life liveable if I have no access to medical care or medications?

  • Ephrenia

    Unfortunately, until the insurance companies are forced to do preventive care they aren’t going to. You see, they are playing a “numbers” game. They are betting on the fact that before you need those costly procedures and medications for the complications that arise, from poor preventive care, that you will no longer be on their rolls. And its true, you probably will be unable to work any longer and on Social Security or Disability before you do need those costly procedures and medications. So they win. You paid your premiums, didn’t have a major procedure on their pocketbook, and slowly degenerated, disintegrated and destabilized. You move below the poverty level and into the “system”. Hmmm, still wonder why the economy is tanking?