When I think about my greatest diabetes-related fear, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t complications. It’s health benefits. It may seem funny that my fear of health problems is second to my concerns about health insurance, but without coverage my good health would be close to impossible to maintain.
I’ve been without insurance three times in my seventeen years with type 1 diabetes. Each time has been terrifying. The first was when I was dropped from my parents’ health insurance. Being diagnosed as an eighteen-year-old meant that I was swiftly shown the door by our insurance company. I was forced to cut costs wherever I could. I re-used my syringes until they dulled and became painful. I paid for insulin and test strips at retail prices as a part-time college student with meager retail wages. Needless to say, I hardly ever ate, rarely saw the doctor, and barely made ends meet.
The second time I was uninsured, I found myself hospitalized twice in a matter of two weeks. It happened shortly after I had resigned from two jobs to be a stay-at-home mother. I was horrified by the pile of bills that came from the two trips to the emergency room. Staying on top of my health was a priority, but I also had to pay something to the hospital each month to avoid being sent to collections. Paying for diabetes supplies on top of everything else became more and more difficult.
The third time I was without health insurance was when my husband and I lost the business we owned. None of the private insurance companies we spoke to would offer me coverage once we told them I had type 1 diabetes. I immediately took the first job I applied for, which was at a call center for a catalog company. It was a temporary assignment with no health benefits until after the 90-day probationary period. I prayed that I’d be kept so I could be eligible for insurance. Out of our group of nearly 20 temporary employees, they kept two. I was grateful to be one of them. The insurance wasn’t great, but it was far better than the alternative.
I attempted to get an insulin pump but found that even with the insurance I had, it was still thousands of dollars out of reach. I was crushed. I wondered how it could be that only people with a healthy bank account or those blessed with excellent health benefits were afforded the technology of continuous insulin delivery.
Today I work in a healthcare setting and have good insurance, but times are still hard sometimes due to ever rising prescription costs and changes in coverage. People with diabetes cannot stop taking their prescriptions because they run out of money. We simply go without other things in life because we need our medication to live.
I’m thankful for my insurance and hope never to be without it again. Those of us with diabetes have enough to worry about, what with our blood sugar numbers, diet, exercise, and, of course, life in general. Insurance and proper medical care shouldn’t be a luxury.