Save today and save more tomorrow

In Canada the economy is in a mess. All levels of government seem to have an incredible debt load. They are constantly in the media looking for ways to save money. They are asking people where they feel that they can make cuts.

I have also been reading posts about adults with diabetes who are having to pay for their own syringes and strips. There are stories of young adults asking why they are paying for needles that keep them alive when drug addicts are getting needles to keep them high for free. There are conversations about seniors who have no coverage at all or are given one box of test strips to cover them for an entire year. My heart breaks for these people. I am terrified for their health. I seriously wonder what governments have been thinking for all of these years.

I have been at this diabetes advocacy thing for many, many years now. Back when I was first gathering information on the cost of insulin pump therapy versus the savings, I learned about the high cost of complications. I quickly understood however, that the government of now is not interested in the worries of the government of tomorrow. They were not interested in paying for pumps and quality care today to save on dialysis tomorrow. They wanted to not pay for dialysis today. This shortsightedness has led us to where we are today.

I am not sure what the cost of a hospital stay is currently but the Toronto Star put it at $7000 per visit in 2008.

According to Diabetes Depot, for $7000 you can purchase…

  • 61 5x3mL cartridges of Lantus
  • 50 5x3ml cartridges of Levemir
  • 206 10ml vials of Novorapid
  • 215 10ml vials of Humalog
  • boxes of 100 Lifescan glucometer strips
  • 184 boxes of 100 per box BD Ultrafine II Insulin Syringes 1/2cc 30 gauge
  • 116 boxes of Animas insulin cartridges
  • 37 boxes of Paradigm Quick-set infusion sets
  • 22boxes of 5 per box Enlite Glucose sensors
  • One insulin pump (which is guaranteed for 4-5 year)

So for every time a person with diabetes goes to the hospital–and my old research said that on average a person with diabetes may go into the hospital for an emergency three times per year if they were not well-managed, the government could have bought them syringes, or insulin, or strips, or all of the above and saved money.

If a person was hospitalized TWICE per year, based on my calculation last year, the government could have paid for a sensor augmented pump AND all of its supplies for the year for the same amount.

Sadly provinces are not covering sensor augmented pumps.  Many provinces are not covering pumps for adults.  There are provinces not covering insulin, syringes or test strips for people living with diabetes.  That worries me greatly.

It worries me that people are not able to properly take care of themselves.  It worries me that governments are looking for ways to cut costs without looking at the bigger picture.  I have sat at pre-budget consultation tables.  I have asked and have heard others ask for governments to invest in keeping people healthy today so that we don’t have to pay much larger bills tomorrow.

I don’t know when they will truly begin to listen.  I will continue to suggest as I know many others of you will as well, that they look at preventative measures over short term cuts.  In the meantime, I will be saddened and worried for those who struggle to afford proper medical care and treatment.  I will also be motivated by them as well.

Together we will one day see real change for all of our sakes.

diabetes supplies


Why should you care about access to insulin pumps?

Three weeks ago, I was asked to start a petition in support of removing age restrictions on the current insulin pump program here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It seemed like a great idea. As an advocate, I know the value of public support for a cause. This was an ideal way to raise awareness of the issue.

That was three weeks ago. Today, I am amazed by the response. We now have well over 550 virtual signatures and most of those come from people living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The online support is amazing. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when I see a steady stream of emails telling me that Karen, Kristen, Kevin, John, and Scott have all just signed the petition only to go back to my mail two hours later and see that Anne, Stewart, James, and Paula also signed. These aren’t just people who I have tormented and harassed until they signed. These are people who you have shared the petition with and they wanted to sign.

In case that wasn’t moving enough, I have also been following along with the “reasons why” people support the petition. There are many people who state that they are signing for their friend, their mother, their brother, their daughter. One father writes that he is living with diabetes and that his children deserve to have him around for a lot longer. I have read of people having to use older pumps and are praying that they will hold out because they can’t afford a replacement and no longer qualify for provincial assistance. The comment from Matthew truly said it all “Diabetes on insulin pump in a few months it is going to be gone because of this”. I have read every single comment and each one motivates me to continue. They motivate me to keep sharing the message.

I know that some people are thinking, “well I don’t have diabetes and this really is sad but why do I really care? They can still live so what’s the big deal? We can’t always get what we want.” The big deal is that many people living with Type 1 diabetes would be healthier and more productive if they had the option of using an insulin pump. If they were healthier and happier, they would probably have fewer sick days off from work. If they had fewer sick days, they would be earning more money and paying more personal income tax. If they are paying more taxes then that is more money in the provincial coffers to cover things like education, transportation, and health care.

Now those same people are probably thinking, “but there people were the ones draining the health care budget to start with. Where is the benefit there?” Well the benefit is in the fact that an insulin pump, especially when used with a Continuous Glucose Monitor, has been shown to improve diabetes control. Improved diabetes control equates to a significant reduction in diabetes related complications such as kidney failure, heart disease and lower limb amputations. People using intensive diabetes management through insulin pump therapy are less likely to be hospitalized during the year (one hospitalization for diabetic ketoacidosis for example will cost over $20,000 per admittance and the average person with diabetes may be hospitalized four times per year).

To further illustrate the benefits of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, let’s consider the fact that studies have shown that people living with diabetes often begin to exhibit signs of complications after living with the disease for 15-20 years (my 16 year old son has seen living with diabetes for over 14 years already). Approximately 25% of those people will develop kidney disease and require hemo-dialysis which costs approximately $263.000 per year. Those people on hemo-dialysis will most likely only live for another 8 years but during that time they will have cost the health care system over $2 million. Ironically $2 million is the projected cost of removing the age restriction from the NL insulin pump program. This means that if you save eight people with diabetes from kidney failure each year, you will have funded the entire insulin pump program.

Kidney failure is not the only medical issue that people with diabetes must fear. 2% of people with diabetes will be blind after 15 years. They are 83% more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than their cohorts and the list goes on as do the health care costs (or savings if everyone had access to improved technology).

The benefits of insulin pump therapy and the use of continuous glucose monitors have been well documented over the years. The improvement in quality of life as well as overall health for people living with diabetes cannot be disputed. In a country standing at the forefront of medical research and innovation, access to insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and their supplies should not be limited to the very rich or the very well insured.

Please sign and share the petition and continue to raise awareness about this issue.
NL pump petition