How would you squeeze $300 into your monthly budget?
8 February 2019
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune1 disease that affects the life of those who are diagnosed with it in all its dimensions: personal, family, mental, financial, etc.
As the wallet generally seems to be more tangible, I will tackle this aspect first.
Type 1 diabetics use either an insulin pump or a pen (for manual injections). The cost for having a pump, besides the initial cost of the device, includes the monthly amount for supplies (infusion sets, catheters, reservoirs, skin barrier wipes, etc.), fast-acting insulin and blood glucose test strips. For manual injections, you need to purchase, every month, needles, blood glucose test strips and fast- and long-acting insulin. Either way, you always need to have on hand some glucagon2 (to be renewed at least once a year or after each use) and supplies to test for ketones.3
If you choose to use one, a CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) system will set you back thousands of dollars more per year.
“Good news” is, some diabetics can have those expenses partially or entirely covered, i.e., those who have group or private insurance (which usually cover 80%) and, in Quebec,4 those who were diagnosed after 2011 and before the age of 18 (through the government of Quebec’s Insulin Pump Access Program). But even with such “luck,” there are many uncovered expenses left (alcohol swabs to clean injection sites, juice or fast-acting glucose to treat low sugar [hypoglycemia], etc.).
For others, it’s a bit more difficult. Insulin pumps (which are more efficient overall) are often not affordable. CGM systems, which help diabetics stabilize their blood sugar levels and thereby prevent short- and long-term complications, are unfortunately considered a luxury by many insurers.
How much does it cost to have type 1 diabetes?5
Ever since I’ve had diabetes, I’ve never really had stability: insurance, no insurance, manual injections, insulin pump, CGM, no CGM… But I can say that no matter what situation I was in, I’ve always had to spend at least $300 (often more) per month on diabetes.
And I didn’t even mention the cost of treating type 1 diabetes-related complications that affect eye health, heart health, digestive health and mental health, in particular. When I’m going through a tough time (nearly 10% of people with diabetes suffer from major depression – twice the rate of those not suffering from chronic health problems6), it’s the unfairness, the burden of it all that angers me the most.
Why does it have to be like this? Why me?
All the money I’ve had to spend on staying alive… How many trips could I have bought with that?
All the hours I’ve had to miss from work for blood samples and medical appointments… What if I could have used them to do things I actually enjoy?
Imagine, for a few minutes, that you have type 1 diabetes: $300 is a large part of your monthly budget.
If you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes tomorrow morning, how would you squeeze $300 into your monthly budget?
In 2019, Tradëm is spearheading its Words for a Cure (#WordsForACure) campaign for the benefit of JDRF, the leading global funding organization for type 1 diabetes research.
1. This means that the immune system attacked its host and destroyed all insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Despite the wealth of research and knowledge on this topic, it’s still not known how these attacks can be prevented or what causes them. What we do know is that type 1 diabetes can stem from genetic predisposition or environmental factors. ↑
2. Hormone that raises blood sugar levels, injected when a person is unconscious, convulsing, unable to swallow or confused as a result of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). ↑
3. A toxic level of ketones (ketoacidosis) accumulates in the bloodstream when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to convert glucose into energy and uses fat instead. Type 1 diabetics are at risk for ketoacidosis when their blood sugar is higher than 14 mmol/L (average targets are usually between 4 and 8 mmol/L) or when they’re otherwise ill (e.g., when they have the flu). ↑
4. Similar programs are available in other provinces as well. ↑
5. Naturally, these costs are estimated based on my personal experience and available information. This chart can’t possibly represent every situation, but still gives a reasonably good idea of the average costs incurred by many type 1 diabetics. ↑
6. DIABETES QUÉBEC. “Diabetes and Depression,” Mental Health [Online], 2014, updated in July 2018. [https://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/psychology/depression-and-anxiety-disorders/diabetes-and-depression] (Accessed January 29, 2019). ↑