SHS sophomore Jessica Waldman ’17 has recently become a member of Congress; not the U.S. Congress but the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Children’s Congress. For three days in July, Waldman had the opportunity to speak with congressmen on Capitol Hill about her illness. Since being diagnosed with type 1 (T1D) diabetes in 6th grade, Waldman has made active contributions to help raise money and create awareness about the disease. She applied to be one of the 163 kids to go to Washington D.C. in 2015 to discuss their disease with lawmakers and promote change. According to the JDRF, there are approximately 1.25 million Americans with T1D, about 200,000 of those under the age of 20. The delegates, all between the ages of 4 and 17, spoke about supporting a law called the Medicare CGM Access Act, representing not only the national community of youth type 1 diabetics, but all citizens with T1D.
The trip began on Monday, July 13th when all of the delegates met each other and spoke to a variety of celebrities suffering from diabetes. On Wednesday of that week, the delegates spent the day speaking to congressmen about why they should advocate for Americans with T1D and support the bill going through Congress. Over a course of only a few hours on Capitol Hill, delegates attended hundreds of meetings in total to support the cause. Delegates then left scrapbooks for congressmen to help to solidify the argument for further funding. “The scrapbooks we made were supposed to educate [congressmen] about T1D as well as share our personal stories,” said Waldman.“[The] scrapbooks are personal and informative on a general scale.” Finally, the delegates were brought to the main attraction for the day, the “Diabetes Research: Improving Lives on the Path to a Cure” hearing with the United States Special Committee on Aging. The group, along with many senators, heard the stories of six witnesses. The JDRF reports the hearing having “standing ovations and thunderous applause.”
The Medicare CGM Access Act is a bipartisan bill that would require Medicare to pay for a device called a continuous glucose monitor, or a CGM, in patients with T1D. The device is seen as “life saving,” in that it is able to track glucose levels with a “glucose sensor,” or tiny electrode, and alert patients when levels are too high or low. Also, as opposed to needing up to 10 finger-prick tests, the device makes monitoring blood sugar easier by reducing the number of sticks per day to 3-4. In a letter she wrote to New York representative Eliot Engel, Waldman wrote about how her CGM has helped her avoid the nuisance of checking her blood sugar “in the middle of class to make sure I hadn’t gone too high from breakfast or too low from gym class.” The CGM eliminates human error of forgetting to check blood sugar and can warn users of an unexpected spike or drop before limits are even reached. In many patients, this device is the only barrier before a life threatening emergency. From personal experience, Waldman understands how important the device can be, and she intended to show this to lawmakers.Although the bill is bipartisan, it has been in limbo for the past two years, making the work of the JDRF Children’s Congress members like Waldman all the more important.
To support the act along with the delegates from the Children’s Congress, the JDRF recommends emailing your local representatives, either Eliot Engel or Nita Lowey depending on your address, and asking them to support H.R. 1427, or the ‘Medicare CGM Access Act of 2015, emailing our state senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and asking that they support S. 804, or the ‘Medicare CGM Access Act of 2015′, and raising awareness on social media with the hashtag “#MedicareCoverCGM.”
The JDRF is hopeful that the work of their Children’s Congress will finally help the bill pass through Congress, especially after the successful hearing. “My favorite part was just being surrounded by all other diabetics because I’ve never been in a situation like that. It was just comforting to know that everyone I was with knew what I was going through,” added Waldman. “[The trip] was really empowering and made me so happy to know that the most influential people in America cared about a cause that is obviously so meaningful to me.”
By Emily Kopp