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Having a Pre-Existing Condition in the Wake of the AHCA Bill

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The American Health Care Act (AHCA) bill that the House of Representatives just passed threatens to weaken the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. While insurers would be required to offer coverage to these people, they would be able to charge people significantly more if they had a pre-existing condition like heart disease, cancer, diabetes or arthritis. This could require people to pay thousands of dollars extra every year to remain insured.

This makes me angry for several reasons. The most important one being that I am human. I think it is insulting and a flaw to suggest that, under the law, those with pre-existing conditions should receive different care.

The next important reason being that I have a pre-existing condition myself. I have type one diabetes, an autoimmune disease where the required treatment is insulin replacement therapy.

Insulin has been estimated to be the sixth most expensive liquid in the world. Which means that even as someone with what I would deem “good” health insurance, living with this disease poses a significant financial burden. I am constantly worrying about the cost of my pump supplies, insulin, test strips, specialist visits (because I see an endocrinologist three or four times a year), blood work, etc.

In March, I was angry when Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz suggested that people have the choice between buying a new smartphone and paying their medical bills. I was angry because instead of buying a new smartphone I could buy one vial of insulin. What about the other 11 months in the year? What about my syringes or pump supplies? What about my test strips?

Before any coverage from health insurance, it costs ~$850/month for supplies for my insulin pump, ~$540 for one vial of insulin and ~$105 for enough test strips to check my blood glucose at the recommended minimum of four times per day. That’s ~$1,495/month just to stay alive. That’s ~$17,940/year. That’s ~31.6 new smartphones/year. Excuse me while I have a good chuckle over his outlandish claim again because wherever he got his numbers from was severely flawed.

As you can imagine, having health coverage is vital when living with type one diabetes because of the associated costs.

For the past few hours, I have been receiving emails from organizations I am involved with stating their disappointment in the passing of this bill, and not just diabetes-related ones. Also not just from ones that fall into the “pre-existing condition” category.

I read one statement that made me particularly emotional so I called my mom and got two words out before I started crying.

Which is why I think that I started this off wrong. I think it is somewhat of a disservice to say that I am merely angry. I am also overwhelmed with sadness, not for myself but for the children and adults who can’t afford the medication they need to save their lives, because if I’m honest, this bill, or the next bill, most likely won’t affect me.

I already told you about how I, someone financially well off with “good” health insurance, am constantly worried about the cost of my disease. Can you imagine someone that isn’t as well off as me? Or someone living paycheck to paycheck? Or someone who must miss mortgage payments to afford the medication their child requires to survive? Can you imagine having to decide between food and insulin? Or having not only the burden of dosing your child with a drug, where too little is dangerous and too much is incredibly dangerous, but also the financial burden of keeping them alive? Of helping to minimize the potential complications they would have if they don’t treat their disease?

Some people don’t have to imagine this. To them, this is the life they live.

My heart goes out to those people, to you if you are reading this. I have been and will continue to make every concerted effort to have my voice heard.

I urge you to call your senators to tell them that they should ensure that pre-existing condition protections are included in any federal healthcare act.

We need to have our voices heard. Please speak up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.


Thinkstock photo via tupungato.

Originally published: May 5, 2017
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