Health Care Reform's Impact on Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • Nobody can deny that health care reform has proven a contentious, divisive battle and an unrelenting exercise in negotiation. With the mention of health care and benefits, many Americans become defensive; worried about what it will mean to them ...what will they lose ... what will they gain ... what will they have access to that they never had access to before?

    After months and months of wrangling, health care reform was passed in the House last a week ago Sunday by a razor thin margin. Of course, now that it's passed, we have to figure out exactly what Reform means. More than likely, considering the reams and reams of paper needed to print the bill, few people know everything that's contained in it.

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    One thing I do know is that insurance companies (as of 2014) will no longer be able to drop or turn down clients because of pre-existing conditions. Let's face it; almost everything is considered a pre-existing condition in today's American health care system. (It's beyond me how pregnancy, which ensures the endurance of the human race, has been deemed a "pre-existing condition," but then again maybe that's anecdotal evidence at how much of a mess our healthcare system is).

    For those with Type 1 diabetes, who up to this point in time had been considered mostly uninsurable because of their condition, this measure offers much hope. First, hope for getting access to some sort of health insurance without being outright denied (and getting health insurance in this country really means getting access to healthcare).  Hope, secondly, that this will mean access to the American Dream, which we in this country often consider a right, and what I think is a need for all of us. 

    The backbone of the country and our economy has been built on our unflagging entrepreneurial spirit. It's this very entrepreneurial drive that keeps us ahead of most, if not all, economies around the globe. But up to now, we've been depleting the pool of entrepreneurs by essentially rationing healthcare for the healthy (now that's almost an oxymoron). I wonder how many would-be Warren Buffets, Jeff Bezos' and Bill Gates may have decided not to take the proverbial leap into starting his or her own business because they had a pre-existing condition and would never have had access to any type of decent healthcare. If this is the case, then how many blockbuster business opportunities, and the jobs they create, have we lost out on?

    What a shame for us. 

    I recently read a post on Six Until Me, "Health Care Reform: How Does it Affect People with Diabetes?" in which blogger Kerri Sparling said, for diabetics "medical coverage takes precedence over a paycheck." She'd gone on to admit that she'd taken a job immediately after graduation that she had little interest in purely because she was afraid of losing her medical coverage, and that although she'd always wanted to start her own business, she'd been stopped by "pure and unadulterated fear."  Her post struck a cord with me.

    I have a 14-year-old son with Type 1 diabetes, and, in the past, when we talked about what kind of career area he may want to get into, we established the fact from the get-go that he would need to look for a career path that promised access to good benefits and also was somewhat stable, meaning he ideally would be at less of a risk of losing his job. He, like most teenagers (and, well, most of us frankly), is not real sure as to what he wants to do when he grows up, but he'd started, almost out of necessity, to qualify career paths by what benefits he can get, not by what he might want to do.  

  • "Maybe I should get into teaching? Maybe something in law enforcement?" he'd inquired one evening when we'd been sitting around our kitchen table, laying out his high school schedule for next fall and trying to channel his interest toward careers.  I'd nodded my head in the affirmative.

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    "What about starting my own business?" he'd asked. I'd hesitated and then shook my head no. "Not advisable. With your diabetes, you'd never be able to get the health insurance and the care it provided. " I understood why he was interested in that option, he, after all, has an entrepreneurial streak in his blood (his mother started and ran her own business before licensing it; and his uncle and great-grandfather had started and still run a health insurance agency, which is kind of ironic).

    Maybe I should have told him to shoot for the starts, but I believe in practical. I really struggled with the idea that he would need to dream in accordance to what his condition allowed. Over the last year and a half, I've wearied of hearing the debates about how health care, and more specifically how reform would ration care away from those who'd really need it.

    Really? Let's face it, the way the system was set up until a week ago Sunday was that care was rationed in favor of those who had good health or who worked for large corporations/organizations that could underwrite large policies.

    If you had a chronic condition and applied for health insurance independently then "Sorry." If you wanted to work for a small business (of which there are about 25 million in the U.S. then you knew the risk. The skyrocketing cost of health care had been pushing many of these businesses to greatly reduce or stop covering health insurance premiums.

    What if you wanted to start your own business and you had chronic condition like Type 1? Then you better have had a lot of money saved up to cover the cost of your care and drugs, or better hope that your venture took off, and fast, if you wanted to keep up with your medical and pharma bills.


    Today, with the passing of this legislation maybe my son - like so many others with pre-existing conditions --can broaden his horizons and dream really big, and not scale back his goals in lieu of affordable access to good medical care and affordable drugs.

    And now his, and others, access to the American Dream won't be rationed because of his pre-existing condition. Won't that be great for all of us? 

Published On: March 30, 2010