The clock edges toward midnight. Fifteen more minutes and I can check Nick’s blood sugar. Hopefully the carbs from the pasta, pie, ice cream and eggnog will have been properly mitigated by the insulin being pumped into his body. Usually I try to encourage fewer carbs and earlier eating at night, increasing the odds of getting a relatively good night’s sleep. For all of us. Today’s his birthday, however, so when he poured more eggnog, had another piece of pie at 10 p.m., I just smiled.
Tomorrow’s Election Day, of course, and, as we step through our fifth year of dealing with our son’s Type 1 diabetes, I think about how personal the presidential election feels this time around. Of course, it’s always personal – I’m a woman, I have daughters, I’ve spent a few years on welfare, I’m drowning in student loans – but the threat of losing the small, huge promise of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act provokes a reaction so visceral that I am unsure I can remain civil around anyone who dismisses it. Because repealing “Obamacare” is a threat. A direct threat to my son and our ability to provide the medical supplies that keep him healthy and alive.
When he was diagnosed, doctors ordered us ambulanced from the local ER to Murray Field. A medical plane flew us to SFO, where another ambulance greeted us, transferred Nick to UCSF. He was that sick. Restoring his health took almost a week. Six days of learning about a disease I’d barely realized existed. Six days of transforming him from a fading, skeletal boy back into one who could walk out of the hospital and into a new life in which, while he would never be quite “normal” again, with the right supplies, he could live as though he was.
The cost of that life-saving intervention?
I don’t know.
See, we had Medi-Cal for the kids at the time, so the cost was covered by that much-maligned government program – the one thing I didn’t have to worry about in the thick of facing the fact that my son has a currently incurable disease was how I would pay for all the care it took to save his life.
I do know his insulin pump costs $3,600 and his regular supplies would run about $800 per month if we had to pay out-of-pocket. (That’s not counting all the glucose tablets and Starbursts we need to keep around.)
After his diagnosis, those regular supplies – insulins, syringes, glucometer, test strips and glucagon – were covered under another government program, California Children’s Services. The government did a fine job of keeping that safety net stretched taut beneath us.
Then, three years ago, I landed a better job with private insurance, so now we pay $20 in co-payments for each prescription – an increase in our expenses, but an improvement in our social status.
But even with the miracle of private insurance, I couldn’t rest easy. I still worried about what would happen if/when my project-based job ended, how Nick would ever have health care again with such a pre-existing condition.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act was signed into law, making it so insurance companies would be forbidden to exclude my son, regardless of the diabetes, my chest expanded. My shoulders settled. I breathed a little easier. What I see is my government doing something to protect people, people like my son, my whole family, others in the same boat. Obamacare ensures that Nick will be able to get the medical attention and supplies he’ll need. Which means he’ll be able to not only survive, but thrive, to be the strong, smart, helpful kid he’s always been – and have a chance to grow into the good man he’s meant to become.
The Republican Party, with Mitt Romney as their representative, wants to take that away. (They want to take a lot away.)
For my son and all the other folks out there who saw their medical options blossom with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, I thank President Barack Obama. I plan to show that gratitude tomorrow, in the voting booth.
(Updated Tuesday, Nov. 6, 6:37 a.m. for style. As a writer, I wish I’d been more elegant. As a citizen, I realize elections – and countries – are about far more than single issues. As an individual, I love this country, I love my family and I hope to find myself celebrating the continued path forward for both this time tomorrow. Or sooner would be fine, too.)