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article imageYour neighbor's dilemma: Diabetes, health care on bridge too far Special

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 3, 2011 in Health
Her illness is chronic. She’s your neighbor. Like other people with diabetes, the life path she walks is long and difficult. Her dilemma characterizes the issues of conveying health care needs on a bridge experts say is too far.
That bridge is the delivery system of medical care to people who need ongoing support. The health care bill provides prevention, intervention before problems become massive before the bridge collapses from the sheer weight of too many people needing care.
Early intervention is important for an epidemic disease, as diabetes has become with 40% or more of the adult population diagnosed as being pre-diabetic that MSNBC reports. It is a way to reduce those numbers so that “bridge” doesn’t collapse. Without it and affordable care needed for diabetics presently, the economic structures of a country are undermined. In the din of voices calling for support of small business, it is the small business owner who is at risk when health care is not affordable or when conditions become so large and complicated they can’t personally address them.
Kay Mathews is one of these people. She is a small business owner in Bentonville, Arkansas, a freelance writer for several publications. Presently, she is developing her own hyper-local newspaper in her community, while linking the major issues from that paper to her contributions on national sites, most dominantly Digital Journal. She also contributes occasionally to Yahoo and writes on-demand material for customers who need her writing skills on various topics.
Mathews is diabetic. She takes insulin and is responsible for her own health care, since she is self employed. Her needs are similar to millions of other people who look to good health as the platform to continue to work.
I wrote to Mathews to get her take on her own situation and the health care bill. Her answers provide an avenue for people to see how the elements of this bill impact individuals in communities across this country. I asked Mathews to detail her concerns about the bill and her personal status with respect to it, so that folks might understand how a neighbor, friend, co-worker, or relative with diabetes can be impacted if health care isn’t provided affordable, accessible, and relevant. This is what Mathews, that person in the neighborhood, tells us:
“I am one of millions who fall through the cracks…too young for Medicare and cannot qualify for Medicaid. The new health care law is our only hope. Otherwise, without health care, my chronic illness will slowly but surely lead to my early death. Frankly, I often wonder if I will make it to the age of 67, or whatever the new retirement age will be for my generation, when I can qualify for Medicare.”
That introduction dramatically speaks of far-reaching dilemmas for many people, in a growing epidemic. The personal side of the health care debate is further described by Ms. Mathews, to illustrate the complications. Fatigue, pain, and other symptoms often impact individuals that require them to work in self-employed capacities and use their skills in relevant ways. Mathews’ issues enveloped some of these concerns, as she tells us what she faces right now:
“ I was diagnosed with Type I adult-onset diabetes at the age of 26 and that was over 20 years ago.
"Personal family needs brought me back to my hometown in Bentonville, Arkansas where I soon obtained an administrative position at a local community college. Eventually, though, I started my writing business Mathews Professional Writing Services. I was able to afford COBRA insurance for about 14 months but then the costs became just too high. So, for the past 16 months I have been uninsured. Because I was not fired/laid off, I could not qualify for unemployment benefits, and as I’ve said, COBRA became unaffordable and, even so, would have ended after 18 months.
Now, due to my pre-existing condition (diabetes), health insurance companies will not cover me. I looked into a high-risk pool, but I cannot recall if I was rejected outright or just unable to afford the outlandish monthly payments for poor coverage (high deductibles, etc.). Thus, each month I pay for all of my diabetic supplies and insulin out-of-pocket. Costs average around $225 per month.
I also spoke with a friend of mine who works for Arkansas’ Department of Human Services who told me that there are no options for me in terms of health insurance…they have programs for poor children and families, but not for a single woman who is not a mother.
I have not seen a doctor in 16 months, which is not a good thing for diabetics. My only hope is when provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act go into effect in 2014. I won’t be denied coverage due to my pre-existing condition, and if my financial situation is dire I may qualify for Medicaid.”
This reporter found the same complications for seniors in travels around the country. Many were in late middle age or seniors layed off early from jobs, due to corporate down-sizing. Unable to find new employment, they were left without health insurance at a time when chronic health conditions can develop, beginning in earnest at age 50.
Mathews tell us, in a voice filled with authenticity best given by those impacted by health care concerns, what she and others like her need. She hopes politicians and those lobbying against the present health care bill, understand what self-employed people like her must have and why as she concludes:
“Being self-employed almost guarantees no health insurance. Health insurance should be portable, available and affordable to all, not attached to employment with large companies. This issue should not be treated as political gain for Republicans, but instead the focus should be on what is in the best interests of Americans. The bill should not be overturned.”
More about Diabetes, Health care reform, Health care, Chronic disease, Health care reform bill
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