RALEIGH – Dozens of North Carolinians gathered outside Senator Thom Tillis’ satellite office June 27 in the state’s capital to protest the Republican-sponsored Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) being considered in the U.S. Senate.
The rally, organized by Protecting Progress in Durham, is one of a series of “Tuesdays with Tillis” meetings at the Senator’s office. The event focused attention on issues important to the group. At this meeting, healthcare took top billing. That day Protecting Progress volunteers created a “Wheel of Misfortune” geared toward people who could lose health insurance or access to medications if various provisions of the Senate healthcare plan are enacted.
One member of the audience, Walter Bowden, came up to the microphone to discuss his life with type 1 diabetes. This illness results from the pancreas’ inability to make insulin, which breaks down sugars in foods. If diabetes is left untreated, the disease can result in organ failure, limb loss, and death if not treated.
“I use a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump,” Bowden told the crowd. “I also take insulin that is very expensive. Without insurance, I would not be able to afford insurance and would die.”
Diabetes is considered a pre-existing condition, according to BCRA. Although new medications come onto the market often, they typically have a hefty price tag. Novo Nordisk, a Danish company with U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, recently introduced a long-acting insulin under the tradename Tresiba.
Unlike other basal insulins which have a 24-hour slow release into the body, Tresiba’s release curve is 96 hours, according to information provided on the medication’s website. Tresiba gives both type 1 and 2 diabetics more control over insulin levels. This medication can be expensive, however, with a retail price of more than $500 monthly for someone who does not have insurance coverage.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 9.3 percent of Americans have some form of diabetes. In North Carolina, with a population of 10.1 million people, an estimated 944,000 people have this illness. Each of these people incurs an annual estimated expense of $7,900, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The goal of the “Tuesdays with Tillis” protest, according to a Protecting Progress event page, was to discourage the passage of the healthcare bill. “We, as North Carolinians who value quality, affordable healthcare for all, do not accept the Senate’s cruel healthcare bill,” said the group’s event page.
Similar rallies around the nation and concern from both Republican and Democratic legislators prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated on June 27 that he would postpone a vote on the bill until he felt more confident in its passage. Following a July 4 recess, McConnell again delayed a vote, citing Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) health and expected absence from the vote as the reason.
I'm a recovering journalist now living a Renaissance life working as a writer & political strategist. I also am the mom to 2 children, one of whom has autonomic dysfunction & Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, I write about politics and healthcare in North Carolina.