People With Diabetes: We’re Not Just Numbers

The latest attempt by the GOP to push through Obamacare (ACA) repeal recently fell through. The bill, from everything I’ve read, was the most draconian and would have resulted in drastically weakened care for those of us with pre-existing conditions. It would have allowed states to opt out of MOST of the protections for pre-existing conditions that were built into the ACA. States could have charged us higher rates if they wanted to. States could have offered plans so unbelievably skimpy that we would have been forced into exorbitantly expensive “comprehensive” plans — a kind of backdoor way of booting us off the rolls. The amount of money offered for subsidizing health care would have dropped off a cliff, leaving the poor and seniors in horrible positions. Virtually every health-care organization in the country was opposed to it, including the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association, and even major HEALTH INSURANCE organizations. It was a terrible, terrible bill.

Meanwhile, a bi-partisan group HAS BEEN working together to stabilize the ACA insurance exchanges and come up with a set of solutions that actually solves real problems. This is being ignored, railroaded, and run over by the bill that was being pushed through — again, not because of concern for people’s well-being, but out of fear that failing to “repeal Obamacare” would cost political points with the conservative base and therefore impact midterm elections. In plain English — you don’t get insulin because a group of senators needed political points. It’s disgusting, immoral, and outrageous. Whether you align with conservative or liberal politics, and whatever your sentiment toward the ACA, if you are living with diabetes, this bill a) was far worse for your future care, choices, and mobility, and b) was being rammed through for reasons that have nothing to do with efficacy, facts, or a reasoned analysis of the real numbers on the ground.

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But none of this is new. Health care has been politicized to the point where real facts barely register anymore. Instead, we have wild storylines and irrational fear driving us toward supporting more and more bad decisions. And that’s the real problem. There will always be politicians who act out of pure self-interest and display no real concern for common people. The problem comes when common people start to believe the storylines that allow said politicians to push through laws that hurt us. I’d like to examine one of those wild storylines that I’ve always found particularly troubling. I’ll give you warning: I’m about to get partisan. I can’t help it. I’m a self-employed Type 1 diabetic — which makes it virtually impossible for me to support the GOP position (which, for the most part, simply tries to eliminate me from the health-care system altogether, really).

The storyline that I’m referring to is the one that blames the person with the pre-existing condition. It’s the “lifestyle disease” storyline. And diabetes falls into that storyline over and over and over again. “Well, if you’d just lose some weight, you wouldn’t HAVE diabetes — so why should everyone else have to pay for it?” Or maybe the blame is put on your unhealthy diet. And while Type 1 diabetes is not the same disease as Type 2 diabetes and has nothing to do with weight (in terms of cause — weight still impacts our ongoing health), the folks who would use this storyline aren’t going to bother researching a little fact like that, so I’m not going to bother differentiating. Besides, differentiating is exactly the kind of thinking I’m so tired of.

This kind of thinking takes a human life and turns it into nothing but a number. It strips away all other kinds of value we have to offer, and instead simply assigns an economic number to us. It is horrendously cold — it doesn’t wonder what kind of parent we are, what kind of good we are doing in the world, what kind of art we are giving the world, what kind of love and compassion we are sharing in the world, what kind of spiritual wisdom we have to offer. It asks none of this, and cares about none of this. It simply deems a person “irresponsible” and “too expensive” and throws them out the window. The fact is, we are more expensive to keep alive. There’s no way around that. It costs more money for me to be here than a slim, healthy 20-year-old; more money than another 38-year-old who DIDN’T come down with diabetes when he was 15; more money than it costs for the rest of my bandmates (none of whom have a chronic illness) to be here. In the cold line of thinking I’m talking about, I am a negative pull on society because my diabetes costs money to treat. It’s not worth a few extra tax dollars to create a society that allows me to create music, or be a husband, or write this blog, or laugh with the people I love, or share my knowledge with others.

If there was any kind of real thinking underneath this bill beyond an insatiable desire to wipe out any legacy of Obama and score political points with a hardcore base of supporters, it was this “lifestyle disease, blame-the-victim” kind of thinking I’m pointing to here. It’s cruel, it’s crude, and it’s cold. I pray to God we don’t have to learn the nasty effects this kind of worldview can have on our loved ones the hard way. I pray that voters don’t have to learn the value of health care by watching their grandparents choose between food and medicine. I pray we don’t have to learn how toxic this worldview is by watching those we love lose coverage, get sick and, in many cases, die from conditions that we COULD HAVE treated. But the push for this future is strong, and we may find ourselves going through some ugly times ahead. I hope we can find our way out the other end of this someday. Because we’re not just numbers, and we’re not just units of an economic system; we’re human beings, and our value is so much deeper than this.

Want to learn more about money matters and diabetes? Read “Diabetes and Health Insurance” and “Do’s and Don’t’s for Saving Money With Diabetes.”

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