Hitting home

“You definitely have diabetes.”

These are not words that anyone likes to hear, but they are the words I heard from the doctor two days ago. They weren't a complete shock; like so many other things, diabetes is annoyingly present in my family background. Given that, you might think that I would have taken measures ages ago to make sure I didn't get to this point, and that would indeed have been the most sensible approach. But there is a difference between a concrete reality and a theoretical possibility, and until you hear those words it's all too easy to rationalize eating that donut or having an extra piece of bacon. It's 10 AM, and you didn't have much breakfast, and someone left blueberry muffins on the table in the break room at work that look awfully tempting. You think, “it's just one,” and so it is. But the ones add up, and before you know it you're at 250 lbs. and rising, with a blood sugar level to match.

Afterwards, of course, things take on a different hue. Being a voracious reader, I'd really like to keep my eyesight, and I have no desire to emulate my diabetic uncle, who lost a leg. Suddenly, oatmeal becomes a religion, and you think hard before finishing the rice that comes with your grilled chicken. Sugar? It's dead to me.

All of which is just another way of saying that things hit home when they happen to you instead of the next guy, and that has me thinking about the current debate over health care reform. Not surprisingly, those who have health insurance are not eager to change the system, since it might mess up what they've got now; those who have no coverage are obviously of a different mindset.

I'm on record as being strongly in favor of single-payer, Canadian-style national health insurance. This is because I believe that any system that does not cover everybody is unacceptable, and the numbers only work when you have the broadest possible risk pool, i.e., the entire population. To me, having health care being paid for by employers is like having your local fire department being paid for by employers. I believe it's in the national interest to have everyone covered. Of course, what I want isn't going to happen anytime soon. I don't know what we're going to end up with, but I'm fairly sure it's going to be a mediocre compromise that pleases no one and fixes little.

What I do know is that being diagnosed with a chronic condition that I will live with for the rest of my life brings things into a new perspective. I have pretty good insurance right now (although it's not the insurance I'd prefer--I'm a Kaiser fan), but I may not always have it. What I will always have is medication to buy, and like many others I'm just one layoff notice away from losing my coverage and rendering that medication unaffordable.

It could happen to me, and it could happen to you, and I think that's something worth meditating upon as we struggle through the messy business of health care reform.