- Posted February 25, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Bitter pill: The cost of health care in the U.S.
The huge cost of chronic disease
I have done nothing to cause my diabetes -- it is a genetic autoimmune disease, according to recent research. The complications can be intimidating: amputations (normally feet and legs), kidney disease, blindness, heart disease, neuropathy (nerve pain, which is severe for most people), depression, frozen joints, and on and on. I care for myself, with the advice of many medical people. I choose how much insulin to take, I choose what to eat, I choose to exercise (or not), and I hope it all comes out right all day, every day. I don't get a day off. I can have a piece of candy or birthday cake on occasion, although it makes the sugar cravings return, but every now and then it is worth it.
Diabetes is a tough disease, and it is epidemic in our country. The costs of diabetes alone could bankrupt the healthcare system and most of the people who suffer with it. Several non-profit groups are funding research for a cure, or a preventive treatment for people who are at high risk of getting diabetes. So far, advances have been made, and that is great. Research on other autoimmune diseases has given us clues to all of them. We still have a long way to go, and I still have a lot of money to spend to stay reasonably healthy. I am one of the lucky ones -- I have no heart disease, I've had no amputations, my kidney disease (proteinuria) is under control, and I have very little background retinopathy (eye disease). Most medical people are amazed to hear that I have had diabetes for over 43 years. In the not-too-distant past, people my age with diabetes as long as I have had were probably dead by now, so I am somewhat of a guinea pig. I hope I can keep going until I reach a ripe old age (or at least a ripe age!).
My former doctor, in Anchorage, Alaska, goes to the homeless shelter every week and helps the people with diabetes there to learn to take better care of themselves, and gives them blood glucose meters and strips so they can. The companies that make the glucose meters give away the meters for free, but the price of the strips is usually outrageous. Luckily, mine are provided free, courtesy of the Oregon Prescription Drug Plan. Otherwise, I would have to fight with Medicare to get more than three per day, when most days I use at least four, and on days when my blood sugar is not cooperating, I check every few hours.
The Native American populations get diabetes at a higher rate than other races, and their medical care is paid for by the Federal government. The costs of diabetes care are out of sight, and we are all paying for them in some way, either from higher insurance premiums or through our taxes.
I know that there are many other diseases that cost as much, if not more, than diabetes. As the article said, health care is big business. I would like to see insurance companies and medical care companies and pharmaceutical companies become non-profit. They don't need to fire their employees or go out of business, they just need to pay their employees a living wage, and put away any profits for the following years, when costs may be higher. It is extremely unfair that anyone makes money off the fact that I, or anyone else, is sick through no fault of my own. There are utility cooperatives that operate under this business plan, and do very well. It is not incomprehensible that health care could use the same business model and reduce costs and expenses. Something's gotta give, besides me and my budget, and yours too, if you get sick.