By: Sharon Kellaher
Type 1 diabetes, 40 years. Vet.
Eight shots a day. Three types of insulin.
Serious eye problems. Three types of eye drops three times a day.
High blood pressure medication two times a day.
These are the words underneath Bob Levine’s name and signature, at the end of letters he writes to political movers and shakers in his effort to help chronically ill people like himself survive Y2K.
Whether or not Y2K will put society’s functioning on hold for a while, people with diabetes are cautioned to keep an extra month’s supply of necessary medications in store at home.
For those who live month-to-month on a restricted income, often the elderly, this seemingly simple precaution can be a major financial burden. Private insurance providers or Medicare do not just give away a month of medication upon request. Paying retail price is just not an option. Some Y2K activists like Levine, of Concord, California, are pressuring the government to solve this looming problem.
“…I Will Be a Casualty of the Year 2000″
“Without daily medication and a coordinated effort from the health care community, I will be a casualty of the year 2000. I will die,” Laurene West told the Senate special committee on Y2K in October 1998. West has a complication from brain tumor surgery which makes her dependent on a daily antibiotic, one that she cannot stockpile because it goes bad in less than a month’s time.
West testified before the committee because she is chronically ill, because as a nurse she knows the health care industry, and because for the last 14 years she has worked in medical information systems. She knows her stuff, and she knows that she is in mortal danger if Y2K causes shutdowns in medication supply.
West demanded help from the committee, stressing the following actions be taken by Washington and the health care field:
- a national public awareness program about Y2K and medicines, so people will not panic, but rather take informed, methodical precautions
- a federal law passed that allows for a “one-time exclusion” for insurance carriers, including Medicare, to give patients a 90-day supply of their medicines, instead of a usual 30-day supply
- a “National Patient Advocacy Council” to inform people of health care organizations’ preparations for Y2K
- a federal requirement that health care organizations stockpile their own supplies
Taking Action to Prepare
In looking at preparing himself for Y2K, Levine researched the retail prices of all his daily medications, including his insulin supplies.
“If I had to pay retail for my monthly medications, my cost would be about $538,” says Levine, an amount tough to spare for many people. Levine urges people to call the senate Y2K committee, and their federal, state and local representatives, to urge them to fund Laurene West’s ideas.
The Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem is headed by Sen. Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah, and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. The committee’s phone number is (202) 224-5224; its Web site is www.senate.gov/~Y2K.
For further information on Y2K and health care in America, a nonprofit organization called RX 2000 Solutions Institute has been established as an information clearinghouse. Its phone number is (612) 835-4478; its Web site is www.rx2000.org.