What’s Next?

Like you probably did, I read Kerri Sparling’s blog post about how she’s still unhappy that nothing has happened since the United Healthcare/Medtronic Diabetes dustup. Like her, I can sense the dust settling at this point, and I wonder if anything meaningful will come of all our vitriol just a month ago.

I’ve thought about this from time to time since the announcement was made back in May, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some things I know, and some things I don’t know about all of this. While we know the issue, and what’s at stake, we all undoubtedly feel a sense of resignation, that “this is how business works and there’s not much we can do about it”.

Well, that may be true. Maybe there’s nothing we can do about it. I don’t think it’s that simple though. I do know that if we’re going to turn the tide of businesses trying to rule our access to tools designed to help us be as healthy as possible, certain things need to happen. In no certain order, here are just four of those things.

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Holes need to be poked in this arrangement. I’ll bet you can state one or two things that are wrong about this business deal right off the top of your head. We need to find more things that are wrong with this, and point them out, over and over again, to anyone who will listen. We need to find out things that are wrong about the businesses and the people running those businesses that are wrong. I’m not advocating personal attacks, of course. But is there a track record here that needs to be noted? Maybe an indicator of what’s to come based on similar tactics these companies/people have employed in the past? And we need to keep hammering those points home. In the current business climate in the USA, these people already know that they can get away with making arrangements that only suit themselves and not patients. We need to make it uncomfortable for them to do so. As uncomfortable as possible, even if it’s one blog post at a time, one insurance claim at a time, one protest at a time, one person standing up and stating what is right. We cannot let injustices go without standing up and pointing them out. Over and over again.

Tweak the message. Why do you think JDRF gets such big dollars for research? Let me ask you another question: do you ever see someone like me in JDRF literature? Of course you don’t. That’s because even though I have the same disease as a cute ten year old, time and again people will react positively to the message that a child doesn’t deserve to live with this, even if I’ve been living with it for at least fifteen years longer.

Okay, I’m a little off topic here, so let me bring it back to the issue at hand. Anger is good… it gets our blood flowing, it’s often the catalyst for developing platforms for change. But if you can’t tell a story, a compelling story, a heart wrenching story about why all patients need access to the best care and drugs and devices, people are going to question why they should care. This is where I’m at a disadvantage. I’m good at telling you what’s happened, but I’m not always good at making it overwhelmingly compelling. But I know I need to do that. We need to turn our outward message of anger into inward concern for actual people. And quickly.

These companies need to be hurt where it counts– in the financials. Sorry to be the one to tell it so bluntly. But let’s face it: by and large, as long as company execs are getting their bonuses, they really don’t care about you or I. This deal falls apart when it no longer makes financial sense, from either a corporate or a personal point of view, for it to continue. I don’t know if that means we find a legal way to keep them in court fighting for their stupid deal (and fund the fight), or if that means we encourage a boycott of United Healthcare and Medtronic for years to come, or if it means that we encourage patients to find ways to make United Healthcare pay more in claims under this agreement (which they would fight). But when the money is no longer there for this deal, there will be no reason for it to continue.

Relentlessness. Do you think The CEO of United Health Group, or the President of Medtronic Diabetes are actually thinking about any of this anymore? They’re not. Of course they’re not. They knew that there would probably be an initial reaction. They knew that the initial reaction would probably die down. Now they’re just going on with their lives like nothing ever happened. You’re just a dollar sign… you’re not a person to them.

I’m not a big believer in the fact that everything needs a coordinated effort to accomplish a big goal. But here’s one instance where a little coordination could come in handy. I’ll give you an example: sit-ins at lunch counters in the south back in the 60s. White authorities were sure that all that was needed was to arrest the African-Americans sitting at the segregated lunch counter, and it would all be over. But as soon as the initial protesters were arrested, new protesters immediately came forward and sat down in their place. Authorities only thought there were a few protesters… they didn’t count on many, showing up over and over again. That’s what we need.

As a community, our initial reaction to all of this was wonderful, and creative, and even inspiring. But now there’s nothing. A coordinated effort that has one person writing about it this week, another meeting with their elected officials the next week, bombarding state insurance commissioners the following week– that’s how we start to chip away at the wall that’s been built between business and patients. Little by little, over and over, never giving up, until we either force an end to this type of practice or make it unsatisfying for companies to engage in this kind of behavior in the first place.

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As U.S. citizens, we believe in our original Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, which promote the idea of choice as a basic right for all people. Those documents don’t say anything about the right to squeeze out as much profit as possible, or that doing so at any cost to patients is okay.

I don’t have a great plan, or anything nearing all the answers. But I do know that the one thing we can do, all of us, is continue to assert that our human right to choose is the most important message in this debate. You think this collaboration between UHC and Medtronic fosters innovation? I don’t care if it does… it destroys my right to choose (and it doesn’t foster innovation– quite the opposite). You think it gives patients a best-in-class platform to manage their diabetes? I don’t care… it destroys my right to choose, today and in the future, so if a better product becomes available, I might be unable to choose it. You think having a “clinical exception process” in place for people who want to choose a different option actually proves you’re still allowing choice? You’re wrong… it destroys my right to choose, and it gives other greedy businesses a template for denying choice, and I’m not okay with that.

This attitude needs to be here, on the faces of the Diabetes Community, in every interaction with these entities, until policies like this are a thing of the past. They’re only trying to get everything they can. I’m fighting for what I want too, and what I want is more important. And I am not ashamed to say so. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
 

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Comments

  • Rick Phillips  On June 13, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Stephen, I believe this will be a long term process. Expecting a reveral or a quick result is not really being realistic.

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes blog page for the week of June 13, 2016.

    Like

  • Colleen  On June 14, 2016 at 7:01 am

    You’re right. We need to keep protesting. We need to remember that just because we don’t have UHC as our own insurance, that it’s important to work for all of us to have equal access to the d-tools and meds that we use.

    Liked by 1 person

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