Monday, December 21, 2009

What healthcare reform means to me

I never thought I’d see the day where healthcare reform might actually pass the Senate. Quite frankly, I am holding back from getting too excited, dreaming of a world where we can all receive affordable, accessible, quality healthcare. I am a bit fearful of what may or may not be behind that 2,700 page legislation which the majority of Americans have not read, including me. But mostly, I am holding back because there is still a chance that it may not pass all the way (hello Joe).

But the dream is still there, waiting to be realized. Could it really be happening this week?

As a diabetic, I have been weighed down by the challenges of obtaining headache free coverage since I can remember. My parents, husband, and I have spent many a long, agonizing phone call arguing with health insurance company representatives regarding coverage of treatments and obtaining necessary pharmaceuticals. And even worse, and so embarrassing, writing statements on preexisting conditions for health insurance companies to examine and analyze.

I have so many painful stories on this topic. Here’s just one: I lived abroad in Israel for three years and was denied coverage of my diabetic care when I returned to the United States. Why? Because I couldn’t prove that I had continuous coverage under an American insurance company while I was there. I had been covered by Israeli health insurance. So I was informed that I had to wait a year until my diabetic care would be covered. The only way to obtain coverage would be under an employer’s healthcare plan. I had just come back to the United States. I hadn’t found a job yet. And when I did find a job, I had to wait three months to be eligible.

Diabetes doesn’t care about waiting periods, preexisting conditions, and continuous coverage. It doesn’t just go away because it’s inconvenient for the insurance companies.

What I couldn’t understand was – why? What if a person loses their job - and cobra is too expensive – because well, they lost their job? What if a person does go abroad for a valuable, educational, life-changing experience and needs to find a job when they return? Should we all stay put, not move, not explore, not leave a job or look for a new one, for fear of denial of healthcare coverage? Aren’t we one of the wealthiest countries in the world? Aren’t we all about freedom here in America? I had been covered under American health insurance my entire life, but because I moved abroad, I couldn’t receive coverage of preexisting conditions when I returned.


I just didn’t get it, and quite frankly, I was embarrassed. It made me feel that the country where I was born, raised, educated, worked, lived didn’t care if I lived or died. Because I cost too much to keep alive?

As a diabetic, health insurance is necessary and essential. I’m insulin dependent. The costs involved in maintaining my health are astronomical. Prescriptions. Doctors. Tests. The insurance companies know better than I do how much this disease costs a month, let alone a year.

Without the medications, without the proper care, I could and probably would go blind, risk losing limbs, my sense of touch, kidney function. Synthetic insulin and all its paraphernalia are what keep me alive…and allow me to live.

So, okay, why should the rest of you care? Why should American taxpayers care? Here’s what it boils down to: Is access to affordable, quality healthcare a right or a privilege?

Well, the first and most obvious reason we all should care is basic human compassion. We are all human. And we all have one thing in common. We will all die one day. Some of us may unfortunately undergo illnesses along the way. Some of us may be so lucky to never have a need for a doctor, hospital, or medical procedure. It’s doubtful though. Shouldn’t we all, irrelevant of earnings and workplace, receive the same opportunity to be healthy? Shouldn’t healthcare rank up there with the right to freedom of speech? Of religion? Shouldn’t healthcare be on the same list as the right to a free education? To learn how to read and write? The right to vote?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services almost 8 percent of the American population has some form of diabetes. And another 57 million have pre-diabetes, meaning they have high blood sugars but not high enough to be called diabetes.

I was in shock when I read these numbers, and instantly thought to myself: These statistics only cover the population with diabetes. How many people in this country are sick? How many have broken a bone? Or received a vaccination? How many inventors, CEOs, teachers, plumbers, firemen, and artists are in need of healthcare? And where would this country be, where would we be as the human race, without them?

And how many potential doctors, lawyers, and teachers haven’t received treatment for an illness because they don’t have access to health insurance?

Second, for those of you who are still thinking about costs and economics and/or are pretty annoyed that I took time on this blog for grassroots political commentary, a healthy society is a happier, more productive society. Think of how much more efficient and productive people are when they are healthy, and think of how inefficient people can be when feeling under the weather, have a cold, a toothache, depression, poor vision, or even worse.

Adequate, accessible, quality healthcare coverage will help make this country….healthy.

So, I’m pretty excited that healthcare reform might pass, despite not knowing all the ins and outs of the actual legislation. I am certain that there are mistakes within those pages. Isn’t that inevitable? I’m sure there will be criticisms from all sides. That’s the power of democracy. But I can't help but go back to the words of the late Ted Kennedy, which were reiterated by his late wife Victoria Reggie Kennedy in Sunday's Washington's Post, “better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all.”

I’m excited because it’s a step in the right direction. It makes me feel like America cares. About me. And the millions of you out there who want to be healthy too.

Let’s care about the people who live amongst us. After all, we’re all human.


  1. The I in illness is isolation, and the crucial letters in wellness are we.

  2. Getting the Facts Straight on Health Care Reform