By Colleen Gray Nguyen
I am a Type 1 diabetic who was diagnosed at 3 years old. For as long as I can remember, my blood glucose levels have been a part of my life – something I’ve always paid heed to, monitored and nudged.
From diagnosis to high school, I was on what is now considered cheap insulin that is available at Walmart, It kept me alive, but it failed to keep my blood sugar levels steady and I had severe low blood sugars at school.
Diabetes, as you probably know, is a chronic disease, that, if you don’t monitor continuously, can cause serious long-term problems to your body like kidney or circulatory problems.
It is essential to my health – to my life, really – that I have health insurance. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 ensured that I have that coverage. The ACA removes both insurers’ lifetime caps for medical care and forbids insurers from discriminating against patients for their pre-existing conditions, making living my life with diabetes a little easier.
The ACA ended up saving my life in more ways than one. I was living with my now ex-husband in Virginia in 2010 when he became abusive.
I was able to gather the strength to leave him and move back to Central PA, without worrying about my insulin and my medical coverage, thanks to the ACA’s provision that I could be covered under my parents’ medical insurance until I turned 26. Without the ACA, I could have been forced to stayed trapped in an abusive marriage just for the health insurance.
Since then, I’ve been very fortunate to put a life together here. I have had a full-time job, gotten remarried to a great guy, became a stepmom to a little girl and a mom to twins.
As you may have guessed, a diabetic’s twin pregnancy isn’t exactly a walk in the park – it was high risk to begin with; I developed pre-eclampsia and the twins were born prematurely.
Throughout this time when I had so many things to worry about, my medical insurance was not one of them. I never saw a single bill – it was all covered. On top of everything else, my son has his own pre-existing condition, vitiligo, which puts him at a higher risk for developing autoimmune diseases down the road.
People whose bodies produce insulin don’t understand how much health insurance plays into the everyday decisions that I make as a person with Type 1 diabetes.
For example, when my current husband switched jobs, we considered the insurance coverage carefully.
Before the Affordable Care Act, it was nearly impossible for people with pre-existing conditions to start their own businesses or freelance. It was just too expensive or impossible to self-insure.
I believe the ACA and employer-provided insurance – rather than a single payer system – is the best way to provide the solution for people with chronic illnesses like mine.
Diabetes is such a personal disease. Everyone’s body is different. There needs to be some flexibility in care. Private insurance allows me that flexibility that I don’t believe a government paid medical solution would provide.
There are too many unknowns, and there are too many opponents in this country who would be rooting for it to lose. In this case, Americans lives would be at stake.
That’s a price that’s way too high to pay.
From having a pre-existing condition to staying on my parent’s healthcare until I was 26, the ACA allowed me to live my life to the fullest, and more importantly allowed me to live – period.
We need to preserve and build on it so more people get the life-saving protection that I have received.
Colleen Gray Nguyen writes from Enola.