Tracey Brown, the CEO of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), has called on Congress to improve protections for people with diabetes during emergencies, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Her plea was published in an op-ed for TheHill.com.
People with diabetes are considered “higher risk” of both severe illness and death from COVID-19. Diabetes is one of several underlying conditions, including old age and hypertension, that have been identified as major risk factors for worsening coronavirus outcomes.
Now that the pandemic has dramatically affected nearly every aspect of our culture and economy, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that some segments of society are still significantly more vulnerable than others. Ms. Brown makes the point:
The whole point of “flattening the curve” is to ensure that those who are most in need of medical resources — the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — can receive medical attention when they need it.
The over 34 million Americans living with diabetes make up a significant part of this group, and we need Congress and the states to provide urgent help to blunt the potentially devastating impact on our community.
With Congress currently debating relief packages, Ms. Brown implored our elected officials to consider inserting specific provisions to help people with diabetes during the crisis. She outlines two specific ideas.
Proposal number one: “Congress should require that people with diabetes be able to receive insulin with no co-pay for the duration of the emergency.”
With lockdowns precipitating huge job losses across the nation, many people with diabetes will find themselves more financially insecure than ever. The insulin pricing crisis was already a matter of life or death for far too many people with diabetes, a situation that can only get worse during the current economic downturn. People with diabetes already have enough to fear from COVID-19 itself; it would be an additional tragedy to allow otherwise healthy patients to get sick and even die simply because they can no longer afford their daily life-saving medicine.
Proposal number two: “Congress should eliminate technical barriers that undermine efforts to keep people living with diabetes healthy.”
Ms. Brown mentions the example of the Medicare rules that require continuous glucose monitor (CGM) users to see their doctor every 6 months in order to renew their prescriptions. With non-essential doctor’s visits now strongly dissuaded, both in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to free up medical resources and personnel, this suggestion seems irrefutably prudent.
We applaud Tracey Brown for her efforts to protect people with diabetes in these trying times, and for doing so with such prudent suggestions. We have already praised Ms. Brown, the first CEO of the ADA to suffer from diabetes herself, for her energy and dynamism, and for her genuinely inspiring decision to lead by example by tackling her own diabetes with lifestyle adjustments.
It’s not easy to live in the United States with diabetes. As it has in many other fields, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized inequalities and injustices that were already present in our society. While Ms. Brown’s suggestions would not begin to redress all of the difficulties encountered by those of us at the mercy of the modern healthcare and insurance industries, they are reasonable, common-sense adjustments that could provide some relief for our community during this time of stress and danger.