A recent study revealed that the average Type 1 diabetic in America will spend about $2,500 on out of pocket medical expenses associated with his or her illness this year. And while insulin the cost of insulin for diabetes patients can be substantial, the insulin they need to maintain their health only accounts for 18 percent of the money paid out of pocket for diabetic medicine and supplies. Insulin pumps, glucose monitors, and syringes are counted among the other supplies that are needed.
Researchers also found that eight percent of Type 1 diabetes patients pay out of pocket expenses upwards of $5,000 a year. The likely reasons for this include significant medical needs and insurance plans with high deductibles.
Dr. Kao-Ping Chua works at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital that is located on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Mott explains that insulin is oftentimes the primary difference between life and death for individuals suffering from diabetes. The doctor also expressed concern that nothing is being done so that the people who need this critical drug the most can better afford it.
Dr. Chua also explained that many patients would find it difficult to purchase all the supplies and medical services they need even if the price of insulin was substantially lowered. Chua concludes that all the care diabetics need to manage their condition should cost less than is presently paid for them.
The 2018 study that is the basis of Chua’s data observed more than 65,000 patients who suffer from Type 1 diabetes. These patients ranged in ages from one to 64 years old and 7,800 children were observed as part of the study. All patients involved in the study possessed private insurance coverage that was sponsored by their employers. No Type 1 diabetes patients who possessed Medicare or Medicaid coverage were involved with the study.
The prohibitive cost of diabetes medication becomes even more of a problem when you consider that families with children spend the most on these supplies and medication. One reason for this is that four out of five children with Type 1 diabetes use glucose monitors or insulin pumps. In some cases, both are needed to maintain the health of a diabetic child. Conversely, about half of adults with Type 1 diabetes need these supplies.
Chua explained that insulin pumps and glucose monitors can improve the lives of all people suffering from diabetes. However, children often possess a higher need for these supplies.
Patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes do not receive the insulin their bodies need from their pancreas. This leads to seriously elevated glucose levels along with the need to control levels of glucose with pharmaceutical insulin. More than one and a half million Americans suffer from Type 1 diabetes.
Chua elaborated on the matter by explaining adults with Type 1 diabetes are often comfortable with injecting themselves with insulin and poking their fingers to check their glucose levels manually. Young children and adolescents are often a little leery of needles. This makes automated insulin delivery and glucose monitoring a welcome addition to the treatment protocols of these young people.
The use of diabetes devices have demonstrated their ability to not only control high glucose levels, but these devices also work to prevent the dangerous drops in glucose levels sometimes experienced by diabetes patients known as hypoglycemia.
The results of the study by Chua and his team are being discussed at a time when there is considerable pushback from many directions against the cost of diabetes medication. Several states and insurers have placed limits on the amount of money they are willing to pay pharmaceutical companies for insulin in 2020. Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced that $35 is the planned cap for enough insulin to last elderly medicare patients for one month.
Chua says he is happy with these first steps that are being made to control the price of insulin. He also made it a point to say that broader measures to lessen the financial strain on individuals and families living with Type 1 diabetes are also necessary.
One suggestion made by Chua is to allow patients who have to meet high deductibles as part of their health insurance agreements to receive help with the cost of glucometers, insulin, and other diabetes medications and supplies before their deductible is met.
Chua says that removing the barriers that exist between diabetes patients and the high-quality care they need is crucially important in a time when the COVID-19 virus has negatively impacted both the physical and financial health of many diabetes sufferers.
Chua finished by saying the pandemic has cost many Type 1 diabetics to lose their jobs as well as the insurance that came along with their employment. If nothing is done for the people affected by this situation, insulin and the other supplies they need to manage their diabetes may become inaccessible to them.