Wednesday, October 22, 2008

High prescription costs pose a threat to diabetics

Last night I noticed this article, which talks about how many people are cutting back on prescription drugs, thanks to money being tighter these days.

This kind of thing is horrifically dangerous to diabetics, and ought to demonstrate why our current health care system is not working. Diabetics who skip insulin can end up in the hospital, as one doctor's patient had in the article. At the very least they'll make themselves miserable (thirsty and having to pee all the time, blurry vision, muscle cramps, etc.), but more significantly they will also set themselves up for health problems over time, particularly if they continue cutting back.

I believe diabetics have a right to expect that they will never have to go without insulin. Insulin is literally our elixir of life — without it, we're as good as dead. I just don't believe we ought to be giving insurance companies, drug companies, and the economy that kind of power over people!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Misrepresenting diabetes in Panic Room

I watched Jodie Foster's Panic Room tonight for the first time in several years. Although I love that movie, it annoys me to see diabetes portrayed so inaccurately in the media.

Here are some of the things that bug me:

1) Sarah's insulin dose would not have been set so that her blood sugars dropped overnight. Notice how quickly she goes down during the course of the movie? Well, the body uses insulin even more efficiently while you're sleeping, which means that she would have crashed even faster had she been left in bed. And no doctor (or parent!) is going to set a child's insulin dose that high.

2) When you are stressed, your blood sugar goes up, not down. Remember when Foster tells her daughter not to get herself worked up, because "you know what happens" when she does that? Well, in actuality stress would make her go high, rather than low — but I guess high blood sugar isn't as immediately dangerous (and therefore not as dramatic).

3) The glucose monitoring "watch" didn't work very well, and therefore never came into widespread use. I guess it would make sense that her daddy (who, remember, they said was in pharmaceuticals) could pull some strings and get her one, but why bother when it doesn't work?

I guess though that I also have to give the movie credit for the things it did get right. For example, seizures are a symptom of severe or extended hypoglycemia. Also, I liked the way they made Forest Whitaker's voice sound when he was talking to her — the hollow, almost distant-sounding echo hinted at how surreal it feels to crash.

Like I said, I really like Panic Room, but I think it's important to educate people properly on diabetes and point out where the movie is inaccurate!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another presidential debate on health care reform

Tonight was the third and final presidential debate between Senators Obama and McCain before the election on November 4. As in the second presidential debate, health care reform was a hot-button topic.

Here is a quick rundown of the presidential candidates' plans for health care reform.

Obama's plan:

* Puts an emphasis on enabling research to find cures for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and stresses the importance of preventative care to lesson the cost of these preventable diseases (i.e. type 2 diabetes) over the long term.

* Attempts to both control health care costs and extend coverage to the uninsured. If you already have health care, you don't have to change anything, but if you don't have it or can't get on with an employer-sponsored plan, you can buy into the same group plan offered to Federal employees.

* Requires large businesses to either offer their employees health insurance, or pay a "fine" to help fund coverage (i.e. the Federal group plan) for their share of the uninsured. (Small businesses are exempt from this requirement.)

* Makes sure people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, will be able to get health insurance. I am a bit fuzzy on this one, but I believe that he is talking about requiring that the Federal group plan cover people with pre-existing conditions, not that all insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions. Either way, it means I can always get health insurance, so I'm happy.

McCain's plan:

* Encourages people to buy their own health insurance by offering them a tax credit of $5,000 for a family or $2,500 for an individual.

* Enables people to buy health insurance across state lines — or, more accurately, encourages insurance companies to set up shop in the states that offer the least restrictions (not necessarily good for us, the people buying the insurance, though it sounds great for the insurance companies).

* Counts employer-sponsored health insurance plans as income, adding as much as $12,000 to your yearly income, and thereby raising your taxes.

One of the criticisms of McCain's plan for health care reform is that it will actually encourage employers to stop offering health insurance as a benefit. Another criticism is that only the young and healthy can actually find health insurance for only $2,500 a year — the rest of us will pay considerably more, if we can find it at all.

Obama's health care plan offers true reform for people like me, who have pre-existing conditions that make finding health insurance difficult, if not impossible. McCain's plan, on the other hand, doesn't reform the industry itself — it just shifts the responsibility of procuring health insurance onto the individual and away from employers.

My argument is that the free-market system is already clearly not working for the health care industry, as insurance companies are putting profit over people's health to such an extreme that both the cost of health care and the numbers of uninsured are steadily rising. So why would we think that giving them even fewer restrictions (i.e. McCain's plan) sounds like a good idea?

Since I am a type 1 diabetic, and health care is a major factor in my life, is it any wonder that I will be voting for the candidate who will do the most to help me and those like me?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Health care reform: Obama vs. McCain

The question of health care reform came up during the presidential debate tonight. Since it is something that affects diabetics, I wanted to mention it on my blog.

When asked about his health care plan, Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, described a plan where people can keep their own employer-sponsored health insurance — but those who aren't currently covered can get the same insurance provided for Federal employees.

Referring to the government-sponsored health insurance, Obama stated, "No one will be excluded for pre-existing conditions, which is a huge problem."

He ain't kidding. If I didn't have health insurance through my husband's employer-sponsored group plan, as a diabetic and a self-employed person I wouldn't be able to get health insurance.

Here, let me say that again, in case you missed it: As a type 1 diabetic, I cannot go out and buy an individual health insurance plan. The only time I can get health insurance is when the insurance company is literally roped into providing it, i.e., via an employer-sponsored group plan. That's because health insurance companies care more about making a profit than taking care of our health.

Because of my own situation, health care reform is one of the political issues I feel the most strongly about. It's not right that diabetics and others with pre-existing conditions can be discriminated against by a bunch of greedy multi-billion dollar companies. Aside from my liberal leanings, this is the biggest reason why I am voting for Obama.

And McCain's plans for health insurance reform? Well, let's just say it's not much of a reform. Sure, he'll give us each $5,000 a year in tax credits and encourage us to go out and buy our own health insurance, but he's not doing anything to ensure that people like me — people with diabetes and other pre-existing conditions — can actually buy health insurance.

In fact, McCain's plan would enable us to cross state lines to buy health insurance. As Obama pointed out, if that happens health insurance companies will all flock to the states with the fewest regulations... making it even harder for people with pre-existing conditions to find coverage.

So not only would I be no better off under McCain's plan, I could actually potentially be worse off.

This is why I am voting for Obama, and why I think you should too. Think about it: I was diagnosed as diabetic at age 22, with no history of it in my family before.

It could happen to you, too. And if it does, wouldn't you rather your health be seen as something that should be taken care of, rather than a liability?

An appointment with my endocrinologist

I recently had an appointment with my endocrinologist at the Barbara Davis Center. Here are, roughly, the results of my appointment:

1. My A1c dropped a little, to 7.1. It's still not as good as I'd like it, but it's significantly better than it was over the summer: In June it was 7.4, and in July, just before I started the study on continuous glucose monitors, it was 7.5.

2. My health insurance company has still not responded to our appeal. About a month and a half ago, my doctor's office sent an appeal to try to get my insurance company to cover the sensors for my CGM. (I got to keep one at the end of the study; more on that later.) They apparently are taking the approach of ignoring me and thereby stalling my efforts to get them to pay for something.

I'll blog about my experiences with the CGMs soon. For now, suffice it to say that if it's this hard for a diabetic to get a potentially life-saving device covered by insurance, than YES, we need some serious health insurance reform!