Guest blogger, Ann Constance, is an MA, RDN, CDE, FAADE, and
Director of the U P Diabetes Outreach Network in Marquette, MI.
Olympian Gary Hall Jr. was denied insurance in 2000. Today he spends up to $40,000 a year for diabetes care.
Gary Hall Jr. was a promising Olympic athlete, winning two individual silver and two gold team relay medals in swimming at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. However, a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in 1999 threatened to end his career. Two different doctors told Gary that his swimming career was over – he now needed to focus on his health instead of faster times in the water. Otherwise he could lose his eyesight or the use of his legs.
Fortunately, Gary sought the advice of another physician. His new health care team, which included a diabetes educator, told him that they could help him swim competitively again. According to Gary, “Diabetes educators are housed in offices the size of broom closets and are one of the most valuable health care professionals for people living with diabetes.”
Gary was back in the water for the 2000 (Sydney) and 2004 (Atlanta) Summer Games, taking home three gold, one silver and two bronze medals. Not only was he swimming well, but Gary swam even faster and better as an athlete with type 1 diabetes!
I was healthy enough to win an individual gold medal, but not healthy enough to buy health care insurance.
Because of his diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, health care was and still is an issue for Gary. After the 2000 Games, Gary stated “I was healthy enough to win an individual gold medal, but not healthy enough to buy health care insurance.” That changed with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), and Gary could no longer be denied health insurance because he lives with diabetes. As someone who is self-employed and doesn’t have benefits, like employment-based health insurance, the cost of health care is expensive for Gary; he spends up to $40,000 a year on health care expenses and doesn’t even use some of the pricier tools like an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitor. Gary’s insulin costs have risen from $50 a vial in 1999 to $1,500 for insulin pens today, and monitoring his blood glucose can cost him $240 or more per month.
As our nation looks at revamping health care again, Gary is concerned about how people with diabetes or other preexisting conditions will be impacted. He feels that it is vitally important for all of us to be involved in the health care debate to ensure that people with diabetes are able to purchase affordable healthcare coverage and get the care and supplies they need. Change will occur with or without us, and our expertise is needed to help shape the future of health care.
Read AADE’s position on healthcare reform.