By Richard D. Elliott
Running alongside former Biden staffer Ashwani Jain as a lieutenant governor candidate during the crowded 2022 gubernatorial election, LaTrece Hawkins Lytes met people of all walks of life, including many diabetics. Having been diagnosed with diabetes at age 1, Hawkins Lytes knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle with the disease.
“Diabetes is not easy, the technology, medicine, and science working together has really improved over time,” she said.
Hawkins Lytes’ background inspired her to form Shining Lytes Inc. She runs the Prince George’s based nonprofit, centered on diabetes awareness and action, alongside her husband Floyd Lytes. Her goal is to reduce incidences of the disease by expanding access to affordable technologies and medicine and providing resources for organ donors. News updates about new treatments and a blog are available on their website.
After not knowing much about diabetes before being with his wife, Lytes now understand the importance of educating others about the disease.
“The next five years of Shining Lytes Inc, I would love to get the word out about the struggles of diabetics, to the public who really are not aware,” he said. “It was a whole new world of understanding, like that you can pass out from not eating.
Although Hawkins Lytes spent 42 years as a Type 1 diabetic, she is now diabetes-free following a pancreas transplant and careful monitoring of her health and diet.
“Insulin pumps, glucose monitors, and especially the cure of a pancreas transplant have been a huge change for me,” she said.
Now she and her husband hope to help others. One major aim of their nonprofit is to reduce the cost of insulin. Hawkins Lytes hopes to work with the incoming General Assembly and Governor Moore on this issue, along with other issues affecting healthcare systems, education and disability.
The American Diabetes Association estimates over 42,000 Marylanders are diagnosed with diabetes annually and Prince Georgians represent a disproportionate percent of those cases. In Maryland, nearly $5 billion annually is paid in direct medical costs related to diabetes and there are over 480,000 Marylanders with diabetes.
Medicare Part D recipients will see savings following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month for those eligible. Senator Raphael Warnock (D, Georgia) introduced a measure to cap insulin costs for those without health insurance, a measure he will likely reintroduce with Democrats retaining a governing majority in the Senate.
“I wish it could be $25 or less, because I remember when it was very difficult to pay out of pocket,” she said in a phone interview.
Hawkins Lytes believes that a $25 or less insulin cap cost passed by state legislators in Maryland would be beneficial for Marylanders with diabetes and their families, although she acknowledges there are widespread issues affecting healthcare systems from COVID that need restructuring.