On July 23, 2011, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was uninsured. I struggled to pay for insulin, I reused needles even after they had dulled and left bruises on my skin. I ended up with $80,000 in medical debt. You read that correctly. $80,000. In less than a year, the Affordable Health Care Act would go into effect. That following November, I enrolled for 2013. I was low income at the time-working as a server in a high end restaurant for the first three months, unemployed for one, then started at a job where I made $12 and hour, then given a raise for $14 an hour. This was $3 above the “Living Wage” in my area, however, that living wage doesn’t include the rising costs of insulin, which, at the time, were $380 a vial. Per month. For better understanding of Type 1 diabetes, I have to take a certain amount of insulin for every carbohydrate I put in my body. Carbohydrates are macronutrients, and are only not found in proteins or fat. That means, when I eat broccoli, carrots, cherries, strawberries, pasta, popcorn, soup, sushi rolls, salads, potatoes, or pizza, I have to take insulin to counter act these foods turning into acid in my body. (The reason I chose to list those foods is because they are my favorites besides bacon and pickles which are free foods with no carbs!) By 2015, I found an insurance plan that fit my needs. The deductible was high, but I had finished my degree and was managing a bar that more than paid the bills, and working a part time job that allowed me to be off my feet, while I recovered from knee surgery. That job is now my career and I am able to be out of the service industry for good. I can pay for my health care, my insulin, my seven doctors that keep me healthy, my insulin pump, my supplies, my test strips, my lancets, the AAA batteries that keep my pump operating, healthy food to put in my body, glucose tabs and juice boxes for when my blood sugar dips, my continuous glucose monitor that shows my endocrinologist trends on a graph of what my blood sugar is doing so he can make changes on a weekly basis, and to pay for my technology and internet service to keep me connected, sane, and mindful. I pay over $10,000 a year for all of this crap that I didn’t ask for nor did I do it to myself. Diabetes (all types) are only one example of a chronic illness that 117 Million Americans live with today. 7 out of 10 deaths are attributed to chronic illness. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
Something that ran President Elect Donald Trump’s campaign was his call for a complete repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, or what has been better known to be called Obamacare. Now, he is saying he will replace it. Coinciding with his reform. I don’t know which Donald to believe day in or day out. I am hoping that they will hold insurance companies responsible to not say “no” to pre-existing conditions. I know health care is costly. And what is going on now is not as an effective plan as we could have.
When I woke up Wednesday and heard the news about President Elect Donald Trump, I cried. I wanted to call into work. I was afraid for people of color, for women, the LGBTQIA, for America, and for mine and my many, many, many friends and family with chronic illness and pre-existing conditions. My boss assured I would be okay and we could always figure it out, even if I had to join our group plan. But, it left me wondering: what about everyone else? I have this saying about myself. “In a sink or swim situation; in a fight or die problem; I am proud to be a strong swimmer and an amazing fighter.” I will continue to swim and fight and advocate for everyone until I have no voice and then I will learn sign language to keep going until they cut off my arms and will write with my feet, unless complications from diabetes and a lack of being able to care for myself takes all I have left. I just pray we don’t come down to that. I pray for you, and me, and all the people who are covered.