No Excuse for Ignorance
Talking about health care, privacy, and domestic partnerships AND diabetes.
August 2009 — That fact that I have type 2 diabetes has nothing to do with what I need to talk about this month. I actually try to be as uplifting and as positive as I can in writing this article because I feel like doing so can help others, and it also helps me stay focused and on top of things in terms of my blood sugar levels, maintenance, and control. However, it is my entire experience with trying to get the medical care that I need to maintain health care, privacy, and dignity, my encounters at new places of service where my medical care is concerned have me vexed.
Whenever I change doctors, or when doctors change on me, or when my health care coverage changes, I have to go through the most ignorant processes known to humankind. The simple fact is that my insurance coverage is granted to me through my Registered Domestic Partner (RDP) who works for a major telecommunications company that happens to honor same gender-loving relationships. While laws exist in our state that say we can't marry, we can't adopt children, and we can't legally have rights to each others property (unless we explicitly hire an attorney to address property specifically) this company in particular offers health benefits to their workers and their partners who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. We had to "register" our relationship and show proof of having shared responsibilities in order to have health care – privacy was obviously not part of that coverage. But we did get coverage.
Good news, right? Not so fast.
The issue is when I go to get health care services, the providers have been ill equipped and/or prepared to deal with this specific population. I have several examples of the frustrating events I have endured since 2005 and my plan is to list a few then end with the most recent of events …
While in the hospital recovering from a hysterectomy in 2005, my partner was asked to leave after visiting hours while male partners/husbands were allowed to stay. I then revealed that my female visitor was my RDP and should be granted the same consideration. They permitted her to stay, but not without several staff members glaring at us like we were some kind of zoo animals on display. A few nurses would wait until my partner left for the evening and would come into my recovery room to ask me questions about my "choices" and my "salvation" and other unmentionables while I was trying to recover from major surgery. I pleasantly entertained their questions and knew when to ask for reprieve, but it was still a challenge to have to deal with that while trying to heal.
I had a dental appointment for a routine check up last year at a new dental office and when completing new forms I took notice that they wanted to know who I was covered by and what was my relationship to the person. The only options they gave on the form was a child, a parent, or a spouse. I had to check spouse then complete her full name on the form. Upon returning the papers to the receptionist she asked me who was "Keisha" then I said my RDP, then she gave me a very stern look over her eyeglasses then asked me, "I thought that was illegal in Michigan, isn't it?" My response was not as pleasant as it was when I was in the hospital a few years back.
Last week, I went to a new optical care center to have my eyes checked for any complications of diabetes and to order new contacts and eyeglasses. The scenario was pretty much the same as at the dentist in terms of completing the forms. This time however, they asked for several pieces of ID, my RDP social security number, and told me in the lobby that they were just trying to make sure that I was not attempting to commit insurance fraud. "Keisha" is not old enough to be my mother, and too old to be my child. How else could we be related to justify my being on her insurance? I explained in the lobby that we were married by registered partnership, which is not really legal in Michigan. There are two young African American women and their teenaged children in the room that began to make inaudible vocal sounds and rolling their eyes and signifying some level of discomfort with the conversation taking place. So right then I took a deep breath and said these next lines between my gritted teeth for everyone to hear:
Our relationship is acknowledged and supported by her employer, and while I am not in what anyone would ever consider a closet, I would appreciate some damn respect and dignity by discussing how the hell I am covered in a more private area … apparently some folks are uncomfortable about this topic as evidenced by all this extra commentary and side bar shit I am hearing in this lobby area. Therefore, I am requesting to speak with the office manager, in private, before all of you end up violating HIPPA laws up in here. Then we will see who is covered and who is not!
Just ignorance! Plain old unadulterated ignorance! Oh, and let's put some xenophobia and homophobia and straight privilege in there too! As a type 2 diabetic, it is no doubt great importance to keep my health in check and to stay on top of all of the issues that may surface as a result of having diabetes. Yeast infections, as well as other gynecological issues, may be complicated more when you have diabetes. Some of the first signs of complications can be indicated based on what a dentist might find during a routine check up. Glaucoma and other eye diseases can manifest as a result of diabetes.
The health care services that I have mentioned here are all a part of routine check ups that diabetics should engage in, and I do, at all costs I do. However, there are times like these that make me want to just go somewhere and crawl up under a rock and not deal with any of it. Especially, if my privacy is blown out of the water by ignorance, that my need for care is disrespected by a few who are grossly unaware of all of our differences and when I have to explain who I love and why…
I am contacting a local advocacy group and I might even consult with a lawyer. I am fed up.
Got it Sugar? Good.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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