While on a recent business trip to Washington D.C., I had the privilege of a brief conversation with Arianna Huffington. I can only imagine how many people approach her for different reasons and on that day, I was no different. I figured I had about two minutes to tell her my story and see if she was willing to help me.
Arianna listened carefully and invited me to follow up with her via a personal email and upon my return home, I sent the email along with a recap of our conversation. The next day, Arianna answered back, introducing me to the editor and saying that they would like to feature my voice on The Huffington Post. So here I am, being given this amazing opportunity to let my voice be heard. And I'm feeling vulnerable, yet determined to get this right. Here's my story.
I am the face of health care reform. And I am a chance to understand the reality of what access to buying health insurance can bring. I've been working since I was 15 years old and am now a successful, self-made businesswoman who pays lots of taxes. I'm the proud daughter of a WWII pilot who won the Navy Cross. I vote. I do my own research on social and political topics and I make informed decisions based on my own conclusions. I contribute to society in many ways, financially, spiritually, and socially.
I also have Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 used to be called Juvenile Diabetes because many of us were diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. We are totally dependent on insulin in order to survive and a commonality in the US that we all share is that, until Obamacare, our pre-existing condition resulted in our only access to private health insurance being through an employer or a parent with an employer. In short, for me, either I was able to work full time for a company whose group insurance "had to take me" or I lived one minor health issue away from total financial ruin.
It's important to understand that I never needed or wanted more than my fair share, just equal access. I don't need free insurance, just the right to buy coverage so that I can stay healthy and not become a burden to my family, friends and society. I want the choice to continue to work and contribute and feel good while I'm doing that. It's really not that complicated.
What I don't understand is the pushback to access. Why? Where is basic human kindness for those of us in great need, willing to pay our fair share? Why are so many willing to look the other way or step over us as if we didn't exist? And more importantly, where was the outrage when millions and millions of us couldn't buy health insurance at any cost? Where were the cries of indignation and compassion? Had we forgotten basic humanity and love for our fellow humankind? Was this a glaring example of "I got mine, too bad for you?"
In the animal kingdom, the "runt" of the litter is often times killed by the others. Perhaps it's our instinct that allows for the bully mentality of "You're different, damaged and we don't like you. We fear what we don't understand so you need to go away." So are we simply animals, surviving on primal instinct alone? Perhaps on some genetic level, we still live by the creed of survival of the fittest?
I have a bumper sticker that reads: "Apathy = Consent." I believe that to be true on many levels in this life experience. Einstein said: "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." So, are some people basically evil? I never think that but when I hear the vile and guttural comments of those who want to derail the only chance we have to help us stay healthy, I have to examine that frightening possibility.
Yet I continue to live with the perhaps naïve idea that if people understood the true implications of denying people the chance to purchase health insurance, they would support everyone's right to access, right? Right?
Here's the truth; with the unprecedented rise of diabetes in this country, there is a good chance that diabetes will eventually touch everyone either personally or through a loved one. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "More than 25.8 million people, or 8.3 percent, have diabetes in the United States, and pre-diabetes is far more common than previously believed. About 35 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 years or older, or 79 million people, currently have pre-diabetes." So again, if you simply do the math, you will see that there is a good chance that most of us will be affected by diabetes in some way at some point.
I certainly don't have all the answers. But I do know that what we had doesn't work. It was mediocre at best. It derailed disease management, affected how we lived and created fear and financial nightmares for countless people and families.
Is Obamacare perfect? Of course not, but I know that obstacles, roadblocks and challenges are opportunities to make us think differently and encourage us to find another way until we get it right. We must not only guarantee its success, but also more importantly, understand and promote its value. What we have now is a chance to humanize health care, level set opportunity and move forward together as a collective whole.Another favorite Einstein quote:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
Referencing that quote, I define knowledge as the mind and imagination as the heart. And as I tap into my imagination, I am having a conversation with my vulnerability. And because I choose not to limit my life by tapping only into the boundaries of my mind, I experience a subtle, yet powerful trust in humanity. I remember what has been forgotten, that our vulnerability is the realization that we all matter. Yes, I still believe in humanity. I still believe in us.