What is the big deal about using an insulin pump? People with diabetes can live using multiple daily injections. Sure using a pump would be nice but we can’t always get what we want. Why should the average taxpayer care about access to insulin pumps for people with diabetes?
Taxpayers should care because it would save them money.
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 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. Paying more taxes then translates to more money in the provincial coffers to cover things like education, transportation, and health care.
Won’t insulin pump therapy cost the system more than injections?
Some people will think, “but they were people who were draining the health care budget to start with! Where is the benefit?” 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 like insulin pump therapy are also less likely to be hospitalized during the year. One hospitalization for diabetic ketoacidosis, for example, will cost over $20,000 per admittance. Studies show that the average person with diabetes may be hospitalized four times per year.
And the savings to the health care system continue over the long-term
To further illustrate the benefits of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, let’s consider the facts. 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 hemodialysis. This costs approximately $263.000 per year. People on hemodialysis will most likely only live for another 8 years but during that time they will have cost the health care system over $2 million.
If you live in Newfoundland and Labrador, $2 million is the projected cost of removing the age restriction from their insulin pump program. This means that if you save eight people with diabetes from kidney failure each year, you will have funded this province’s 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. Costs that are dramatically reduced if a person with diabetes is able to maintain tight control like that found when using an insulin pump.
Doesn’t insurance cover this sort of stuff?
Not everyone has insurance. In Canada, if you don’t have private insurance that includes the coverage of insulin pumps, you may consider applying to a publicly funded program through your province.
Get an overview of the insulin pump programs in Canada here.
As you can see, many provinces do not offer coverage for everyone with type 1 diabetes. In many cases, your provincial coverage ends when you are 18 or 25 years old.
How can we get improved access to provincial programs?
Access to insulin pumps, supplies and other diabetes devices must be made available to all people living with diabetes. Online petitions, meetings with politicians and educating the general public will go along way towards this goal.
Together we will continue to push for that change. One day soon, access to insulin pumps will be available to everyone who chooses to use one.
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