2005 Priorities for Diabetes: The U.S. Congress is Back in Session


By: Nicole Johnson

The U.S. Congress is back in session andhopes are high for diabetes victories.

As advocates, we must remember that thekey to victory is bipartisan traction. In thecurrent landscape of diabetes debate, this istricky, but not impossible.

The challenge is to communicate andcompromise. On complicated issues of ethicsand life science, there will be disagreements.However, that does not mean progress can’tbe made.

To reach a victory, the diabetes communitymust become the most sophisticated andmost respected source for nuanced debate.This may require the swinging of fewersledgehammers. Far too many put all theireggs in one political basket; sometimes itworks, most of the time it fails. In my opinion,even the slightest positive movement in thedirection of diabetes is better thanno movement at all.

On other issues there will be completeagreement. Everyone seems to agreethat diabetes should receive more federalfunding, that more research needs tobe done and that discrimination againstpeople with diabetes must stop. Our task:to creatively present the issues to thelawmakers.

Clearly, this year will be one of great debate.That is the beauty of our political systemand our freedom. Diabetes is an emotionallycharged issue, and for good reason. However,in the emotion of our advocacy, we mustremember to maintain balance.

The Major Diabetes Legislative Debates of 2005

School Issues

Supporters believe that studentswith diabetes should be allowedto self-manage their conditionin the classroom and at schoolevents with the permission oftheir physician. Opponents fearthe liability associated with self-managementand the misuse of insulin syringes andlancets. School personnel do not want to take on theadded responsibility of healthcare in the classroom.

Stem Cell Research

Supporters want more freedomto pursue the promise of stemcells and want the restrictionson embryonic stem cell researchlifted. Opponents fear thatlifting restrictions could resultin the increase of humanreproduction for the sake of saving lives—an ethical slippery slope. They believe that this form of researchis premature and want science to show documentedprogress before opening the floodgates.

Health Insurance

Supporters think that coveragefor diabetes education andtesting supplies is essential.They say that individuals shouldnot be penalized for havinga chronic disease and shouldnot be kept from practicingpreventive care, which couldsave providers thousands in costs for treatingcomplications of diabetes. Opponents think thatdiabetes care is too costlyand is elective. The federal government wants toallow businesses to buy into association healthplans that would exempt them from state laws andmandates. (At this time, 46 states require coveragefor diabetes supplies and education for HMOmembers and for individuals with traditionalindemnity insurance plans.)



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