I’ve known diabetes all of my life… I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in 2006 when I was seven years old and my little brother was diagnosed in 2009 when he was 22 months old. Our grandpa also has T1D. When he was diagnosed in 1957 at the age of 12, he was told that he would only live for about five more years.
Today, my grandpa is 70 years old and an inspiration, but he has a lot of diabetes related complications he has to deal with now. So why is federal funding for diabetes research so important for all ages and stages? Because I see all of the complications that my grandpa has and I don’t want my little brother or myself – or anyone else with T1D for that matter – to have to go through all that he has. And because of continued federal funding for important programs like the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), people diagnosed with T1D in my generation have a much better chance of leading lives more free from T1D-related complications. Federal funding is important because the Federal Government is the only entity that has the capacity to fund such large-scale studies. Spending $150 million per year on diabetes research through the NIH, in an effort to prevent the nearly $245 billion per year (and growing) cost of the disease to the U.S. economy, may just be one of the best return-on-investments that the U.S. Government could ever make.
There are great tools coming out all the time to make life with T1D easier. This includes the continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which my brother has. And it has been great for him, but our health insurance unfortunately doesn’t cover CGMs for anyone over the age of 12, so I don’t have one. When we asked about the age restriction we were told that the age cutoff for the CGM is due to the fact that there has not been enough research done on teens and CGM use. But the thing is this: T1D is going to be difficult to manage no matter how old you are. It is not something where one case is worse than another, or something that gets better with age, it is scary and unpredictable for everyone, all of the time. For example, I woke up the other night with a blood glucose level of 37, and fortunately I woke up that time, but my fear is that one of these days I won’t wake up. I think having a CGM with an alarm that would sound before I went too low or too high would help put my mind at ease.
My grandpa is in a similar situation with Medicare right now! He would almost certainly benefit from having a CGM because he doesn’t always feel low blood sugars coming on anymore. However, Medicare doesn’t currently cover CGMs. The fact that the CGM isn’t covered for all people living with T1D makes me wonder: if they were to come out with new technology like the artificial pancreas, would it even be covered for everyone by all insurance companies? How would I, or someone like me, even get to experience the greater BG control that it would undoubtedly help me achieve? This is why I really think continued Federal funding and more T1D research are so critical. With more research maybe ALL insurance companies (and also Medicare!) would decide to cover great technologies like the CGM for everyone.