Monthly Archives: February 2018

Judy.

I woke up this morning with news of the passing of Judy Reich. I’ve never posted a remembrance of anyone here, but I feel I needed to share my absolute grief at hearing the news today.

Judy Reich, Rhonda B, and me at the Diabetes UnConference Las Vegas (photo courtesy of Rhonda)


Judy was a one of a kind, lovely soul. Her enthusiasm for living a purposeful life with diabetes for over 50 years was matched only by her love for her husband Gary, and her enthusiasm for her beloved city of Las Vegas.

Judy had a long time career in broadcasting locally, which included election to the Nevada Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame eighteen years ago. She also loved her role providing descriptive audio services for the Smith Center in Las Vegas, helping sight impaired individuals enjoy the productions she loved herself. She was also a long time volunteer and previous chair of the JDRF Las Vegas chapter.

I can’t say that I knew Judy extremely well. But reading the many tributes to her on Facebook this morning tells me that for every unique and special thing she did for all of us living with diabetes, she also touched each soul she met in a very personal way.

For me, I can remember the very first Diabetes UnConference in Las Vegas, where she and I sat outside of the Flamingo at the end of a long Saturday. We were waiting for the valet to bring her signature red PT Cruiser. During the walk over, and the 20 minutes or so it took to get her car (sometimes, things take a looong time there), we talked about living with diabetes, and the perils of living with Type 1 diabetes, and she pointedly asked me about my relationship with my wife, and how we managed a life together when diabetes sometimes got in the middle.

She was very concerned about her relationship with Gary, and how much of a burden diabetes had been for him too. Anyone who knew Judy knew that she felt things very deeply, and I could see that this was something that concerned her very much.

I won’t share what I shared in our conversation, but I will tell you that we parted that evening knowing that while we had relationships we were still working on after many years, we were grateful for those relationships we were still working on after many years.

And after sharing that story, I have to admit, I don’t know how to finish this. I’m still in shock that she’s gone. Vegas won’t be Vegas without Judy. I, and many, many others, will miss her kindness, her smile, and so much more.

I just don’t know how to say goodbye.

Three large companies want to disrupt healthcare. Don’t hold your breath.

I’ve been waiting to write about this until I could consider all sides of the story. Now that I’ve had a few days to mull it over, here are my thoughts about the Jeff Bezos/Warren Buffett/Jamie Dimon healthcare whoziwhatsis.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that this is NOT financial advice. I don’t know squat about what you should do with your money.

Now, some basic facts: The companies that are run by the three business titans noted above are partnering to explore ways to reduce the cost of healthcare, first for their own employees, then, potentially other companies’ employees. After the announcement, the Dow Industrial Average lost over 300 points. Since then, over 1500 more points have been shaved off the Dow.

The initial selloff last Tuesday affected insurance company stock as much as anything, and that’s understandable to a degree. But to this observer, the panic seems to be a little premature. Right now, to borrow a little political vernacular, this announcement is a big nothing burger.

I mean, sure… Amazon has made a mountain of money changing the way people shop. Berkshire Hathaway has made investors rich for over 40 years. And JPMorgan Chase is America’s biggest bank. However, healthcare in these United States is full of layer upon layer upon layer of complexity, and getting through all that complexity will take time. Maybe a lot of time.

At the federal level, there is government regulation and government regulators. Healthcare is regulated in the individual states too, and sometimes, even at the local level.

How about doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals? Some of them charge so much for their services only because the cost of their education was so high they have to charge extra just to break even after paying on their student loans.

And since we’re in the 21st century, we have to consider technology. Not the kind that helps us deliver insulin or tells us our glucose levels. I mean the kind of technology that intersects patients all over the country, and for now at least, allows providers to get paid based on medical codes entered through software designed to help them figure out what each treatment is worth.

Hey, guess what? I haven’t mentioned a thing yet about insurance companies or drug prices. Like I said, layer upon layer upon layer of complexity.

If Bezos, Buffett, and Dimon are going to revolutionize healthcare in the USA, they have their work cut out for them. It’s going to take a while.

Insurance premiums are three times more expensive than they were 18 years ago. Out of pocket deductibles for these plans are three times more expensive than they were 12 years ago. There’s a sea of red tape to wade through to help companies and patients get affordable, accessible, compassionate healthcare.

But… we won’t really know whether the cycle of escalating costs can be broken unless someone actually tries. Whoever tries will need deep pockets to succeed. And a fair amount of patience. This triumvirate of business tycoons has the money. Let’s hope they have the intestinal fortitude to see it all the way through.

DPAC Joins DAA.

News broke this week that Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition has joined forces with the larger Diabetes Advocacy Alliance. I’ve spent some time volunteering for DPAC in the past, but regarding this announcement, I don’t know any more than what is publicly available. Let’s take a look at that:

Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition is a 501(c)4 organization that helps to promote important diabetes causes before local, state, and federal elected officials and policy makers. DPAC has been successful too… testifying before congress, taking part in important discussions on insulin pricing, and many other achievements.

They’ve delivered an extremely powerful app that helps individual citizens take action on issues quickly and easily. They’ve educated and informed before many, and for what it’s worth, I’ve been proud to represent them at Friends for Life events over the past two years.

Diabetes Advocacy Alliance is just what its name indicates: an Alliance of groups dedicated to advancing the causes important to people living with diabetes. In joining DAA, DPAC will be joining the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, the American Medical Association, and others in an effort to collectively amplify all our voices.

The impression I get here is that DPAC is still going to be DPAC. But we’re all aware that there are a number of disparate voices out there, all advocating for diabetes while advocating for different things. Where we’re able to join forces, we appear stronger to the people we’re advocating to.

Joining this alliance should help DPAC partner with other organizations to raise awareness and push legislators to act on our behalf. And in my book, that’s always a plus.

You may ask… what about the corporate organizations that are also part of Diabetes Advocacy Alliance? Is that okay?

Well, first of all, they wanted to be part of the alliance, or they wouldn’t be there. They could have ignored this group, or even spent time and money to try to render it ineffective. Instead, they climbed on board as members.

Second, wow… an organization with members who may not always have the same priorities at the same time… sounds like Washington! If they can do it, DAA can do it too. And believe it or not, there could be times where my goal and a company’s goal may actually be the same. Maybe more often than you might think.

DPAC’s CEO, Christel Marchand Aprigliano, put it this way in the press release announcing the news:

“With the current U.S. healthcare system spending more than 1 in 5 healthcare dollars on diabetes, there has never been a more important time to advocate for the long-term health of our community.”

I could not agree more.

I’m always interested in how new collaborations will turn out. I know that the missions of Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition and Diabetes Advocacy Alliance are great for partnering for more people, more effectively, more often. Here’s hoping that my goals remain their goals, and those goals have a greater impact through this collaboration.

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