The Deluxe Bar and Grill is one of Capitol Hill's most venerable institutions, operating for about 55 years now. It's durability has to do, I think, with the fact that when faced with a dizzying array of Capitol Hill dining options, sometimes it's really nice to just go get an enormous chicken Cobb or classic baked potato. But as magnificent as that continent-sized Cobb is, the thing to get is the burgers. Indeed, Burgerama, their Wednesday night burger blowout, is something of an institution within an institution.
If you buy a drink—a 12oz Rainier is always $2—you get one of their ample grass-fed burgers for a mere $7.99. That's a crazy deal for a quality patty. Back when I was a starving student living on the Hill, when you could still kind of afford to do that, the pre-inflation $5 Burgerama special was a godsend. Even now, getting a mushroom truffle burger and a craft beer for less than $16 is pretty nuts.
However, as dependably good as the Deluxe's burger is, and as much of a steal as it is on Wednesdays, I'm not writing about it because I think it's the absolute best burger in Seattle. May God have mercy on the poor fool who tries to claim they've found that holy grail.
While the Deluxe burger is a great burger and I hope you all go eat it, I'm really writing about it because of how badly Republicans want to take away protections for people with preexisting conditions. What does the Deluxe have to do with this? Well, in a sense, it's where my particular preexisting condition—type 1 diabetes—came from.
You see, a little over three decades ago, my parents met at the Deluxe. My dad managed the late Harvard Exit, and was a regular at the Deluxe, which used to be the place to be seen. My aunt Kelly was a cocktail waitress there, and my mother, who had just returned from two years sailing around the South Pacific to go to grad school, was staying with her. One night, Kelly said, in no uncertain terms, "You're going to skip studying tonight, and you're going to come to this film event and meet one of my regulars. He's perfect for you." To make a long story short, Kelly won that argument, and a little later my mom and dad were on their first date at the Deluxe, discussing potential baby names. They really, really wanted to make a kid, and I'm fairly certain they did exactly that in the space behind the screen at the theater, which served as my dad's makeshift apartment at the time.
What they didn't want to do, I'm guessing, was make a kid with a chronic medical condition. No one does, but the genes that are responsible for type 1 diabetes are not single allele affairs. They're some complex shit, and it's entirely possible for two people with absolutely no family history of type 1 diabetes to make a kid who has it.
Getting diagnosed with type 1, especially after 24 years of normal, healthy, who-needs-health-insurance existence, really made me think about the value our society places on human life. It is not as equal as my previous privilege allowed me to think. As a diabetic, I've still been pretty privileged, as I was diagnosed while already enrolled in an pretty cushy employer-paid Group Health plan. I never had to enter a high-risk pool, even though this was the pre-ACA era, as my condition emerged while I was already covered.
However, the fact that such pools exist continues to appall me. I've been told Graham-Cassidy, the Republican Party's latest failed effort to replace the ACA, wouldn't be as bad for preexisting conditions as previous Republican attempts, but the simple fact that it's a question seems monstrous to me. Certainly, the lives of type 1 diabetics are not as devalued as other populations in society, like those of black and brown people (Black Lives Matter, don't forget it). However, the literal tax placed on my life is a reminder that we as society do not view life as an inalienable right, despite what our Declaration of Independence says. We view it as a commodity.
In a pre-insulin society, I would be dead. I would be the unfit one that didn't survive. I have certainly accepted that the technological advancements of science are what allows me to live. That the work of people like Frederick Banting is the only reason I haven't succumbed to the hand of natural selection. However, I still fail to understand why we don't see such scientific advances as part of the evolution of our species, and continue to view them as discrete technological objects to be bought and sold.
Sanofi Aventis made $7.5 billion in 2016 from Lantus, the long-acting insulin I take every day to keep the whole creaking machine moving. Obamacare only recently allowed other drugmakers to compete in the insulin market. Modern insulin is a biologic, which means it's made by little workhorse bacteria, rather than chemically synthesized. Biologics are expensive and difficult to make, but once a drugmaker has one approved, they're pretty much set. Like, $7.5 billion set. Obamacare allowed other drugmakers to make "biosimilar" drugs, the equivalent of generics for the biologic market, but the process to get those approved is lengthy and difficult. Long story short, either I'm a permanent customer of a very profitable drug or I'm dead.
I don't mind taking insulin. With the tiny needles and the discreet pre-filled pens I use, it's about as inconvenient as flossing. I don't, however, like the idea that my life depends on my economic stability. I don't like the idea that I'm "high-risk," not as deserving of life as anyone else. Insulin is not elective for me. I'm not asking anyone to cover my nose job, I just want to wake up every day and know I'm going to live to see the end of it.
As my parents will tell anyone unlucky enough to be sitting too close to them after they've gotten a couple martinis in them, I was not a mistake. They didn't set out to make a burden on the healthcare system, they set out to make a kid. However, "burden" is exactly the term I think most Republican lawmakers would use to describe my effect on the precious premiums that they don't even have to pay.
I guess, when they finally succeed in forcing me to pay my fair share—because $315 a month before insulin copays isn't fair enough—I can at least console myself with Burgerama. Penalizing people for being born with the wrong genes seems crazy, but $8 for a generous patty of grass-fed beef on Capitol Hill is pretty crazy too, right?