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Sugar–Free Advice

By Megan Kinneyn | Sep. 2, 2007

Law Office Management

Sep. 2, 2007

Sugar–Free Advice

A Santa Monica attorney helps those with diabetes battle DMV, employment, and insurance woes. By Jeanette Borzo

By Jeanette Borzo
      Santa Monica trial attorney Kriss Halpern can remember the moment he became a champion for the rights of people with diabetes. It was in 1994, and his own rights were being infringed.
      Diagnosed with insulin-dependent, type 1 diabetes as a college student, Halpern ran into trouble a dozen years later when his insurance company wouldn't cover the blood-sugar test strips he needed to monitor his blood-sugar levels in order to tightly control them. For a decade, Halpern had been a volunteer in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), and that landmark study proved that close monitoring and regulation of blood-sugar levels helps avoid a host of disease complications, including blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation.
      The University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate finally convinced his HMO that the test strips would cost the company less than treatment for the diabetic complications they prevent. Then other people with diabetes began using his correspondence as a model, so they could convince their own insurers.
      Halpern, 45, has since given legal advice to hundreds of people with diabetes, mostly on a pro bono basis, addressing everything from driver's license revocations to job-discrimination issues. In one recent instance, a police chief's secretary was in danger of losing her job after she had a hypoglycemic episode at the office and blacked out. But thanks to a letter from Halpern concerning reasonable accommodations for testing and treating blood-sugar levels at work, the woman was able to keep her job.
      "He lets people know how to get the services they need," says Steve Edelman, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, who has worked with Halpern on various diabetes initiatives.
      Halpern, a litigator in solo practice, has even detailed many of his helpful tactics online at his website, "I try to teach people to do these things for themselves," he says. "You can't make a career out of suing for a supply of test strips, [but] those of us who know how to do these things need to be proactive."

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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