David Trinko: Health care system expects too much from minor

By David Trinko - dtrinko@civitasmedia.com

My 14-year-old daughter can’t drive. She can’t cook using the oven. She can’t even wake herself up for school on time with the aid of an alarm.

Yet somehow, some way, her insurance company decided her opinions on her health care are more important than her parents, who have to pay for it.

My oldest daughter is a Type 1 diabetic. As such, she needs insulin pumped into her bloodstream to stay alive. It’s a battle we’d been fighting since she was 8, and we generally thought we understood how the health care system worked, in terms of getting the medicines to us.

Then she turned 14. For some reason, in a country where 14-year-olds can’t think about buying cigarettes, voting or enlisting in the military for another four years, my diabetic daughter is in the driver’s seat on her health care. She can’t even drive for another two years.

My wife was on the phone recently with the insurance company, trying to set up the online account to make sure we could get the necessary medication when needed. At a certain point, the person on the phone demanded to talk to our daughter to confirm that’s what she wanted to do.

The person on the phone asked for my daughter’s Social Security number, which she didn’t know. Then she asked for identifying information about my wife. She didn’t know her mother’s birth year. She is, after all, 14.

We had a similar experience recently at her new diabetes doctor, who made it perfectly clear she was in charge, not us, and she could ask us to leave the room at any point she chose.

We’re unable to look at any of her medical records online without her permission too, even though she turns to us to help her understand what they mean. She can grant us access for short periods of time, but it always defaults to keeping us in the dark.

Perhaps the greatest insult, and possibly greatest damage, came the other day, when the online pharmacy originally declined to mail out her insulin supply for the next three months because it cost so much. (Welcome to the world of a parent of a diabetic, by the way.) Instead of contacting my wife or me about it, the message went to our daughter. Like most 14-year-old girls, it didn’t seem that important to her, so she didn’t mention it until a few days later.

Whenever you hear people talking about minors and consent for health care, it’s usually phrased in light of medical tests or abortion. Can the child get an HIV test without parental consent? Can a child get an abortion without parental consent? In the mind of some, because a child is old enough to physically have children like adults, they must be permitted to make the kinds of decisions adults are legally entitled to make.

In this case, it’s just gone too far. Even though we’re expected to carry insurance for her and make the co-pays, we must have her handy to confirm we’re doing her bidding. It’s like we’re the office support staff for this 14-year-old princess in an upstairs bedroom, watching cute cat videos on some device that, yes, we also purchased that for them too.

We often talk about the good old days, when children didn’t have to grow up so fast. This is a case where supposedly well-meaning adults, trying to empower teens, actually forced them to grow up a little too soon.

We’re absolutely in favor of her understanding her disease and the health care system that will keep her alive for the rest of her life. But this goes a step too far. It’s an absolute shame.


By David Trinko


David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.