Tag Archives: diabetes coverage

Diabetes is an exceptionally costly disease

Its Day 2 of Diabetes Blog week and today we look at the high costs of diabetes care.  Diabetes takes a toll on the person living with the disease, on their relationships and on their wallets. Diabetes is an exceptionally costly disease.

diabetes is costlyFrom the moment the diagnosis comes in, your world begins to shatter.  Quickly you learn that the days of grabbing a snack on the run or leaving the house with just your keys are over.

Diabetes means that your brain must constantly be on.  You must always be thinking about carb counts, blood glucose levels, insulin on board, and a thousand other factors that were previously irrelevant to you.  The mental exhaustion is real.  The toll on the person with diabetes, their caregivers and those around them is significant.

When living with diabetes, it is vital to have supports and to use them! When a friend or partner offers to help, accept it. It doesn’t matter if they do things a little differently.  If no one dies, then it’s a win.  Accept the help.  Take a break. You need it.

Unfortunately it is not just the emotional and physical aspects of diabetes care that can be taxing.  Diabetes is an exceptionally costly disease when it comes to your finances as well.  If you don’t have excellent  insurance coverage, the stresses of life with diabetes are magnified a thousand times over.

For those of us living in Canada, there are a few benefits. First, we don’t have the absolutely ridiculously high insulin costs that our friends to the south are being subjected to.  My son was pleasantly surprised when he was forced to buy his first vial of insulin and it cost him less than $40.

$40 for a person who is in school and working part-time is enough of a cost however.  Thankfully his expense is temporary.  He has two options for coverage. He is trying to get back on his father’s insurance because he is in school.  If that becomes more of a hassle than it is worth, he can still apply for the provincial drug plan to help offset the costs of diabetes supplies.

If you don’t have those options however, diabetes is exceptionally costly.  In February of 2015, I sat down and figured out exactly how costly it would be for me to have Type 1 diabetes and use an insulin pump.   I don’t have private health care coverage, I am too old for the current provincial insulin pump program and I wouldn’t qualify for much of a rebate through our provincial program because of income.

For me to use a sensor augmented insulin pump to maintain my diabetes care, in 2015, I established that it would cost me approximately $14,500 per year.  That is over $1200 per MONTH.  Obviously this total would be drastically reduced if I just wanted to use a syringe and injections.  Either way, I would still require insulin, syringes, test strips, ketone strips, alcohol swabs and glucose tablets to just name a few items to stay alive.

Can you imagine being a young adult and having to save, at minimum, the amount of a car payment just to cover your expenses? What if you wanted to have a family but you have diabetes? You need to be able to afford diapers, clothes, food and diabetes supplies for yourself.  Even those who no longer have children are not immune.  No matter what your age, you carry the need to pay for life-sustaining medical equipment for as long as you live.  That must be exhausting.

There is no cure. There is no end in sight.  All those of us who love people with diabetes can do is continue to offer emotional support.  We can continue to assist with care and those of us in the advocacy realm can continue to ask governments and insurance companies to provide greater help.  Diabetes is an exceptionally costly disease. We must do all we can to help our loved ones deal with it.

Which Liberal Government?

The summer is over and it’s now time to get back to work.

This summer I saw a number of variations of this status posted all over Facebook…

“I would like to highlight the Liberal government removing the subsidy for blood test strips. Diabetics need very frequent blood testing, up to 5+ times a day. The cost of strips is $70.00 – outcome – reduced blood glucose testing and more hospital admissions from hyper or hypo glycemic episodes.
Diabetes . . . I am asking if everyone could put this as their status for 1 hour. I’m pretty sure I know the ones that will. Think of someone you know or love who has or has had diabetes. My hope is that in 2016 a cure will be found. Will you post it for 1 hour? To honor those who have fought or are fighting diabetes.? “

Many people were sharing this status.  Many more were asking…where is this from? Whose government is doing this? The answers were surprising.

liberalsI was certain that it was Newfoundland.  This spring the new Liberal government  announced changes to the provincial prescription drug plan.  They were limiting the number of test strips to 2500 annually for those using MDI, 700 for those using just a long acting insulin, 100 for those not using insulin and 50 for those who have only recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.*

As this post continued to make its rounds however, I was shocked to see that a number of other locations were also claiming that this was a reality in their home area. People from as far away as Australia were saying that this had happened to them.  They said it was their government that the post was directed at.  All I could think was, “this is crazy!”

For years, study after study has shown how important tight control and home blood glucose monitoring is.  They have shown that good control equates to improved health outcomes AND immediate financial benefit in terms of reduced loss of work. Why would governments think that they were saving money by cutting access to blood glucose testing strips?

This entire scenario hits too close to home as my son turns 19. He may soon be in a position of losing his health care coverage.  His days of being covered by his father’s private health care plan are numbered.   My stomach aches each time I think of this safety net being taken away.  He does have some coverage from the province.  We will find a way but what about other children?

I don’t mean small children, I mean adults who are struggling to find their way.  What about them? What about their families? How do they cope? How do you work a minimum wage job, pay your rent, buy your groceries AND cover your diabetes care costs?

Again, we know how important blood glucose testing is. As parents, we have spent years asking  our children “Did you test?” and “What was your blood glucose reading?”  How do they answer those questions when they can’t afford the test strips? How accurate will their guess have to be?

Without proper testing, they cannot accurately dose their insulin. They cannot make exact judgement calls on corrections.  They will run a high risk of complications.  They most likely will have more sick days.  This will cost governments more money in lost tax revenue and create an increased drain on hospital services.

If a person with diabetes is unable to test and stop potentially dangerous high blood glucose levels on their own, they will be forced to seek hospital treatments.  A 2008 report in the Toronto Star suggests that one typical hospital stay then cost approximately $7000**.  $7000…you can get 100 strips for $80-$100.  If you test 8-10 times per day that one hospital stay would still  cost more than 2 years worth of test strips. Two years. 

It would appear that the people in charge of making these policy changes need to better understand what they have done.  Basic math shows the folly in such policies. We can only hope that public pressure and common sense will ultimately prevail.  Our loved ones with diabetes need access to the proper medical supplies to ensure that they can continue to be healthy, productive members of our societies.

*http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2016-04-17/article-4500650/Changes-coming-to-provincial-drug-program/1

**https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2008/03/18/average_hospital_stay_costs_nearly_7000_study.html

 

Governments are a mess. Private insurance is too expensive.

Governments all over are in a mess.  Private insurance is out of reach for too many.  What is left?

Last week our province handed down its latest budget.  Earlier in the month, the federal government released its budget.  No matter where you look, governments are cutting back and taking programs away.  They are not interested in expanding coverage, sharing coverage or adding new coverage to their medical expenses.

We can tell them all about the cost savings that these programs will offer but all that they see is the outlay and staffing.  They don’t see the benefits.  It can be very frustrating.

As I was logging in to write this post, I happened to open an article on the funding of the Edmonton Protocol.  For over 16 years, this therapy has been available as a last resort for people with diabetes and guess what? Governments are thinking twice about funding it as well!

What are we to do? If governments are not going to be funding treatments that have been around for 16 years, what is going to happen when the artificial pancreas comes to market? Most provinces are not funding sensor augmented pumps at this point. The majority of provinces do not provide adults with any sort of financial assistance for pumps.   What can we do?

This is where my mind as been stewing. I don’t have a lot of answers but there must be one.  We need change.  Our adults living with diabetes need reasonable access to the latest diabetes technologies to keep them healthy and productive members of society. There has to be a way to help those who just cannot afford to carry the complete financial burden.

It would have to be a  private venture.   The public system is a mess no matter where you live.  It would have to be accessible to all– a system that is reflective of what you can afford.

Private insurance companies exist but they are often too  expensive.  Many private insurance policies (either purchased by individuals or by companies) do not cover enough diabetes supplies to last a person more than a few  months.  If they do cover more, they are often so expensive that only a few can afford them.

There has to be a way for private industry, pharmaceutical entities, and those in need to somehow all have their needs met.  There has to be a way to create something new that would be sustainable and yet help those who cannot afford to help themselves.  There has to be a way to bring together all of the players to create something that doesn’t see favoritism or a monopoly but rather a way to help everyone in need through the help of everyone involved.

And this is where my brain stalls and spins.  How would you fix the problem? How would you provide better access for diabetes supplies to everyone who needs them? Where would you turn? I really am curious…

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My Petition to Mankind

Today’s blog week prompt challenges us to come up with our own online petition. There have been a few petitions circulating lately so if I had my choice, what would I petition for?

That is a real challenge.  I have read a few posts asking for greater meter accuracy and even petitioning test strips to find their way to the garbage can. I would of course love to see both of those things happen! I would also love protection for all children with diabetes in schools. I would love for cheaper air fares that would allow families to travel with greater ease to diabetes related events.

I think the thing that I truly want more than anything else is access to devices and supplies for EVERYONE!  I don’t care where you live in the world, you should have access to enough insulin, syringes, test strips, pumps, and CGMs. I cringe when I hear of anyone who can only test once a day (or less).  I cry when I hear of people barely able to afford insulin. My heart breaks when people have to choose which child will have an insulin pump because both children have diabetes but they can’t afford a pump and supplies for two children. That just should not be.

So pharmaceutical companies, governments of the world, humanity, I am begging of you…

  • Please ensure that everyone who needs insulin has access to  the best available insulin no matter where they live.
  • Please make sure that everyone, no matter where they live, have clean and sterile syringes.
  • Please ensure that all people living with diabetes have adequate access to the most effective glucometers and as many test strips as they need to manage their diabetes care to the best of their abilities. 
  • Please ensure that the most innovative insulin pumps are available to anyone with diabetes, anywhere in the world, who wants to use them.
  • Please ensure that Continuous Glucose Monitors are available to everyone who wants to use them as another management tool no matter where they live or how much insurance they have.
  • Please ensure that all people living with diabetes have access to the best possible tools, education, and devices regardless of insurance, race, financial background, or geographical location.

No one should have to make the choice between food and life, between electricity and insulin.  Let us become a humane and just society offering the best possible healthcare to all of the Earth’s citizens not just a select few.

Signed,

A mother who cares.

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