November officially is American Diabetes Awareness Month.
But to the American Diabetes Association and advocates for the cause, every month is prime time for pushing its agenda and educating members about the importance of slowing down the growth of the disease.
If it’s not arrested, the cost of treating diabetes in the coming years could make Obamacare look like a financial hangnail by comparison.
The Idaho congressional delegation is aware of the dire effects of diabetes, thanks in part to the efforts of 14-year-old Carson Magee of Coeur d’Alene. He’s had contacts in recent years with Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, who are part of the Senate Diabetes Coalition, and Rep. Raul Labrador. All three have supported Carson’s call for federal funding of the Special Diabetes Program. Carson also counts Congressman Mike Simpson as a friend of the cause, and for good reason.
“I have been a supporter of the Special Diabetes Program since coming to Congress,” Simpson said. “Furthermore, I sit on the appropriations subcommittee, which has increased funding for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease the last two years.”
Carson, who has type 1 diabetes, uses a simple technique. He speaks from the heart. His efforts don’t stop on the federal level. A few years ago, he approached Gov. Butch Otter with the idea of having a Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Day during the legislative session. As a result, a day is set aside for the second Monday in February.
Approaching high-powered people hasn’t always been easy. “At first, I was nervous, and wasn’t sure what to say,” Carson said. “But God helped me through that.”
Type 1 Diabetes, which most often is found in children, is a horrible problem. “It’s crazy the impact that diabetes has,” Carson says. “Kids are dying, because they have diabetes that is undiagnosed and nobody knows what’s wrong with them.”
But diabetes isn’t all about kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30 million Americans have either type 1 or type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes. Another 84 million have a ticking time bomb called “pre-diabetes,” which usually leads to the real thing if untreated. Those staggering numbers represent nearly one-third of the U.S. population, and there are no signs that the epidemic is slowing down.
I have personal experience with type 2 diabetes and have lived with some of the complications – including blindness, the clogging of my heart valves (corrected with bypass surgery) and an amputated toe. Over the last few months, I’ve been dealing with diabetes-induced blindness in my right eye, which has caused some frustration with my golf game. But I’m one of the lucky ones, because at least I can play golf. The “unlucky” ones are recovering from strokes, on kidney dialysis or facing multiple amputations.
It’s no wonder why the ADA, and other advocates, get nervous when there’s talk about repeal of Obamacare. The plans discussed so far, according to the ADA, would leave up to 32 million Americans without healthcare coverage. To people with diabetes, who have trouble enough paying for the skyrocketing cost of insulin and other supplies, “repeal and replace” reads like a formula for government-sponsored mass executions.
With repealing Obamacare on the back burner for now, the requests to Congress are more modest. The American Diabetes Association continues to push for additional research funding for the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control — which have not found a cure for diabetes, but have done amazing things to help people effectively manage the disease. Carson Magee, and others, will continue to ask for the $1.5 million needed to continue funding for the Special Diabetes Program.
Simpson, for one, needs no convincing. “Make no mistake, diabetes is a disease that has the potential to increase healthcare costs in this country if we don’t commit to research. I will continue to use my position in Congress to advocate for those important programs, because not only does it make fiscal sense to prevent and one day cure diabetes, but it is important to help our friends and family who are living with the disease.”
A scary world awaits Carson, and people his age, if the diabetes numbers climb closer to 50 percent of the nation’s population. It may take a “Congressman” Carson Magee to figure a way out of this mess in the coming decades.
Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.