Diabetes Blog Week – Day 2

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Back with Day #2 of Diabetes Blog Week!

Today’s prompt is: Insulin and other diabetes medications and supplies can be costly. Here in the US, insurance status and age (as in Medicare eligibility) can impact both the cost and coverage.  So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?

My experience with the high cost of diabetes management has been relatively painless, but certainly not pain-free.  I say that because I know there are families that regularly have to make the choice between food and insulin.  There are people in this country who die from diabetes complications because they don’t have access to affordable insulin.  In the most prosperous country in the world, that is shameful.

From an economic standpoint, I understand that the innovations and high quality healthcare we enjoy in the United States is due, in part, to the profit motive for pharmaceutical companies. Medicine is a business, for better or for worse.  But, the current system is deeply flawed and it’s my prayer that it is improved during my lifetime.

I have been very fortunate to always have a stash of insulin in the butter compartment of my fridge.  Access to insulin, medications, blood glucose testing supplies, and continuous glucose monitoring systems (when I’ve used them) has not been a significant issue.  However, I’ve had some struggles along the way.

For example, during graduate school, I exhausted my annual student health plan benefit in five months!  For the balance of the year, while working toward a Masters in History and working part time, I had to put the cost of insulin and testing supplies on a credit card.  Dennis and I were dating at that time.  When we were engaged and planning our wedding, I joked with him: “… I’m not marrying you for medical insurance coverage, I promise!”

Dennis works for a national law firm and they offer employees tremendous health insurance for them and their dependents.  Several years ago, when a lot of the insurance plans were still new to me, I talked to a colleague who worked in the insurance industry.  As I described our plan, I asked her: “It’s an EPO and as far as I can tell, there’s no downside.  We have the choices of a PPO and the low prices of an HMO.  What am I missing?”  She replied, “Nothing!  They are the best.”  From then on, I counted our health insurance among our blessings, and never took it for granted.

The thing about having a chronic (and potentially expensive!) disease is that it always has to factor into your planning and decisions.  Several months ago, Dennis and I were talking about the future and considering the option of him changing jobs or even working part time so he could be with the kids after school.  When we crunched the numbers we realized that the cost of medical insurance would become a significant issue.  Since we’ve been married, I’ve joked that Dennis can never retire because I need his amazing insurance.  I didn’t realize how true that was until I pondered life without it.

When I look to the future, I’m motivated to control my diabetes through diet and exercise as much as possible.  Obviously I’ll always need insulin, but eating low carb allows my insulin needs to be low, blood sugars stable, and my overall health improved.  Knowing that, for me, insulin and access to technology will likely be more expensive in the future, I want my dependence on those tools to be minimized.

One day we won’t have the amazing medical insurance that I’ve enjoyed for the past 13 years.  That day when my butter compartment is less full of insulin and my stash of blood glucose testing strips is less plentiful is likely coming.  In the meantime, I’ll keep praying that the healthcare system in America will figure itself out before that day arrives.

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If you’re wondering how you can be educated on this issue or advocate for those who desperately need access to insulin, check out Kerri’s great post at Six Until Me on Day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week!

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