Monday, March 20, 2006

Your Chance

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, health insurance companies in Massachusetts were under no obligation to pay for diabetes supplies - supplies like test strips and lancets, syringes and insulin. Because the cost of these items was astronomical, and because my parents weren't flush with extra cash, we made do. Other diabetics diagnosed before or during the early 80s, I'm sure, have similar stories to mine -- cutting test strips, both urine and blood strips into fours, wiping the tips of lancets with alcohol and using them multiple times (yeah, yeah, I know -- since that time, I've dropped the alcohol from that equation), sterilizing syringes in boiling water to get multiple uses from them.

At eleven years old, I was approached at an American Diabetes Association Family Weekend -- held at the Clara Barton Camp and asked to become a Diabetes Youth Advocate for the ADA's Annual Youth Congress held in Washington, DC. Interested as I was in issues around diabetes, and with a talent for and comfort with public speaking, I agreed to give it a go. Now -- this wasn't just a free trip to DC -- Youth Advocates were expected to advocate on a statewide level for diabetes-related issues and were expected to make regular appearances - in front of city groups, other kids with diabetes, etc year round. Additionally, I attended meetings at ADA headquarters in Framingham and volunteered at ADA events.

So -- I was introduced to diabetes issues early. I am proud to say that as a teenager, I helped to ensure that the Americans with Disabilites Act was passed and signed into law.

I was also part of the ADA team that fought for legislation that mandated insurance coverage for people with diabetes in Massachusetts. Youth advocates and their families and other people with diabetes and other chronic medical conditions fought to pass similar legislation in 45 other states.

Now -- it's your turn. The piece that follows is partly excerpted from an email from the American Diabetes Association. It discusses a bill that's in the United States Senate right now that, if passed, could have an impact on people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes around the country. Please take a moment to read the piece, poke around and research a bit if you need to, and consider making a call to your U.S. Senators asking them to oppose this legislation.

With the help of thousands of Americans like you, the ADA has helped to pass laws requiring insurers to cover diabetes education, equipment, and supplies in small business health policies in 46 states. To date, our supporters have helped protect those 46 state laws from being rolled back by opposing misguided bills in state legislatures or by opposing AHP legislation in Congress.

Without question, these 46 state laws face their gravest threat yet from a bill in the US Senate.

S. 1955, also known as the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act, would not only allow the creation of AHPs that can skirt the 46 state laws for small business health plans, it would also allow all state-regulated health insurance policies to bypass those laws. This means that in addition to small business health plans, all state-regulated health insurance -- like individual policies, for example -- would also lose their guarantee of required coverage of lifesaving diabetes items.

Supporters of this bill believe they are helping more Americans get health insurance coverage. However, coverage under these policies either covers diabetes needs inadequately or prices them out of reach of many Americans if it covers those needs at all. In short, S. 1955 will be devastating for millions of people with diabetes across the country.

Despite a strong effort by Advocates from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee members' states, S. 1955 passed in that Committee by a vote of 11-9 on Tuesday. Now this bill will go to the Senate floor for a vote. If there was ever a time for you to take action -- emailing your Senators, calling them, or visiting them -- this is it.

We strongly urge you to send an email and fax to your Senators at minimum (below). If you understand the seriousness of this situation and want to put up our best fight to preserve insurance coverage for people with diabetes, here's how you can help further:

Call your Senators:

This link will give you the phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses for your US Senators:

Call or email today!

You can find talking points regarding opposition to S. 1955 here:

Get talking points on what to say opposing S.1955.

Visit your Senators during their recess (it begins tomorrow afternoon):

You will need to call your Senators' District Offices in your State and schedule a meeting. You can find that information by clicking the link above for phone numbers/contact information and then clicking on your specific Senators name when you find it.

If you visit, bring this document to help with what to say, then leave it behind with the Senators or their staffers.

Call some friends and make an outing of it! I speak from experience -- you'll be amazed at how empowering it is.

Stepping down from Soapbox and returning to work now...