Liberals, give me my Air Miles back

B.C. government, quit-smoking funding, Type-1 Diabetes, costs of diabetes, Air Miles

Close family and friends, co-workers, acquaintances and even a few unlucky strangers will attest to the fact that I am a vocal advocate of non-smoking, a major pest, in fact, to those who won’t quit this stinky, disease-causing habit.

But I am not in favour of the B.C. government shelling out millions to help smokers kick the evil weed.

At least not while I, as a Type-1 Diabetic, who didn’t choose the disease, must pay for my own medical prescriptions and supplies, without any similar government largesse.

Starting Sept. 30 the government will be providing smokers with up to 12 weeks supply of nicotine gum, or patches, or prescription pills to kick the habit. The government estimates this will cost $15-$25 million a year, depending on how many smokers sign up.

Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could get three months worth of free supplies that could save my life?

On average, I go to the pharmacy every nine days, doling out anywhere from $75 to $350 each trip for the medical supplies I need.

Last year, I spent over $12,000 (to control this disease I didn’t choose) more than $2,000 of which came out of my own pocket.

I’m fortunate that I have third-party insurance – which I hasten to add I pay for – but many in B.C. are not so lucky.

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago, about eight or nine years ago, when I was working my first newspaper job in Grand Forks, getting paid beans and no benefits. Most months, it was a decision between buying food or buying insulin and test strips to monitor my blood sugar levels.

Needless to say, I became a regular at the local hospital – repeatedly costing the system.

I get it that tobacco-related illness is costing the health care system, and it would be a good thing if smokers would stop this nonsensical habit. But diabetes is costing the system about as much, and threatens to grow much larger.

The B.C. health ministry estimates tobacco-related illness costs $2.3 billion a year.

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, diabetes is costing B.C. $1.3 billion, and it’s expected to increase to $1.9 billion by 2020, if no action is taken to curb its growth.

Michael Cloutier, president of the association, says the economic burden of diabetes in B.C. is “staggering and threatens the sustainability of our health care system and the provincial economy.”

And yet, the government continues to turn its back on this disease, waiting until those with it are knocking on death’s door with gangrene, or vision impairment, or kidney failure, or nerve damage, or high blood pressure, or heart attack, or stroke – all complications of diabetes.

It’s as though the government figures we’ve already got the disease, we’re already doomed, so why bother. Or, maybe it’s because diabetes, sometimes viewed as the invisible disease, isn’t quite as sexy as smoking and cancer.

This quit-smoking program came just one month after the B.C. government decided to strip people with disease or chronic illness from getting any reward points, such as Air Miles, on medical supplies covered by Pharmacare, reasoning that it was not fair that we – the diseased – should rack up points on items the government is paying for, while the healthy unfortunates could not.

Alright then, if the government wants to play the fairness card, why not across the board? Why aren’t they paying for my prescriptions? Why aren’t they paying for my insulin pump? Why aren’t they paying for my continuous glucose monitoring system, which is not covered by third-party medical, and which could significantly improve my health?

How is this fair?