Saturday, August 6, 2011

Diabetes supplies or pay the electricity bill?

Yesterday I went to the pharmacy to order diabetes supplies.  After an initial heart attack when the woman suggested that there was no prescription for one item that I needed for my son, all went well.  When I went back to pick up all of our goodies, the woman at the counter knew our name.  As she tallied up our bill, she hid the screen and said "You don't want to see this."  She was right--over $600 spent and that did not include pump supplies. $100 of it was mine but the rest was all to manage diabetes. 

The glucagon kits, that we thankfully have never used (looking for wood to knock on), were over $235 for two.  I am so grateful that they have never been used but was terrified for the families who need it but don't have the insurance to cover the cost.  We are lucky.  My son's drugs are covered by his father's plan.  I pray my son will have a good drug plan on his own one day or I don't know how he will make it.

$500 for insulin, test strips and glucagon.  There was nothing extravagant in that list.  There were no syringes or pump supplies.  I did not order six months worth of insulin and there are only enough strips there to last 15 days (give or take a few).  That is equal to our grocery bill for a month.  That is rent for a small apartment in some places.  That is the amount of our electricity bill to heat our house during the winter. That is also the amount of money required to keep my son alive for approximately two weeks--scary!

My heart breaks for those who do not have health insurance. Anxiety attacks occur when I think of the fact that my son will have to carefully consider his employment future. He knows what he wants to do with his life but at almost 14, I know that he has not looked to see if that career would give him good benefits.  Benefits are not something that kids should have to worry about. Then again, injecting something into their system on a daily basis to stay alive is not something a child should have to worry about either.

Our province does offer a low income and middle income drug plan.  This will cover some but not all of his supplies if he needed. He would be limited in the number of test strips he could purchase.  He would require special permission to have his insulin covered.  His pump supplies are covered until he turns 25.  This all changes if he decides to live elsewhere in the country.  

I know that there are other countries that have it a lot worse.  We don't live in those other countries though.  We live in a rich country.  We live in a place with socialized health care.  Despite that fact, people with diabetes and other illnesses, must fight to obtain access to devices and supplies. They cannot chose to have the very best in care unless they also have the very best in insurance plans or bank accounts.  

People say that diabetes does not stop you from doing anything but it does limit your career choices.  We have made some inroads.  There are pilots with Type 1 diabetes and people working as police officers who are living with this disease.  In reality, diabetes has a huge impact on career choices.  If you live with diabetes AND you want tight control, you have to be able to afford it.  The easiest way to do that is to have a great job with even better benefits. 

That needs to change. I am not sure how but it needs to change.  For the time being, we can work on having insulin pumps covered for everyone regardless of age.  The next step will be to have an insurance program that covers everyone regardless of income and despite an existing condition. If you make $100,000 a year then perhaps you can afford a $5000 a year deductible but if you make $25,000 a year then lets be able to offer them $750 a year.  Its something to think about. Its something to work towards... 

1 comment:

  1. "Diabetes supplies or pay the electricity bill" Is true here in the US as well. I am "covered", but on disability. I pay an insurance premium. I live (sort of) on $14,000 a year....insulin is $157 every 3 months, pump supplies $150. This before the cost of other necessary prescriptions and many MD co-pays for various diabetic complications. I often "rob Peter to pay Paul" and I'm always behind, often in collections before the bill can be paid. It is a sad reality. I wish you and your son well and hope for a day when health care will be fair and resonable for everybody.