The real cost and burden of diabetes

Yesterday, I submitted a prescription to Anthem/Express Scripts for new glucose monitoring test strips, strips that work with his new Omnipod Insulin Pump. I received the shock of my life when my copay for a three month supply was $7,492. If you consider that my copay is 20% of the total cost, then the price tag for the six boxes of test strips was $37,500. Based on that $37,500 price tag, each strip cost about $62.50. Yikes. Obviously, someone made a mistake but I spoke with three different supervisors at Anthem and not one of them would admit the cost was exorbitant. I ended up calling the manufacturer of the test strips and will be getting them through CVS with a prescription card supplied by the manufacturer for $15 a box–much better!

This got me wondering, however, just how much the average family or person with T1D pays for medical expenses. Not surprisingly, I could not find information specific to Type 1 Diabetes. I would likely estimate my out-of-pocket expense to be close to $3000 a year–including prescriptions, doctor’s visits, and medical equipment. That, of course, is only part of the picture, for my insurance company foots most of the bills (remember that 20% copay).

The American Diabetes Association estimates the total economic cost of all types of diabetes to be close to $245 billion per year (ADA). Problematically, the organization follows the estimate with this statement:

“This estimate highlights the substantial burden that diabetes imposes on society. Additional components of societal burden omitted from our study include intangibles from pain and suffering, resources from care provided by non-paid caregivers, and the burden associated with undiagnosed diabetes.” (ADA)

This is yet another example of how individuals with diabetes are held responsible for and are perceived to be deserving of their disease, regardless of the type or the cause. Statements such as the above, that use language such as “burden” when discussing diabetes, are hurtful and relegate those who live with the disease as undesirable, unworthy, less human. There is no other disease that has been so vilified by the public health sector, except perhaps HIV/AIDS.  Even those who smoke themselves to death via lung cancer, COPD and heart attack are more worthy of public empathy than a child with diabetes.

Diabetes is NOT a societal burden. Those corporations, organizations and individuals who fail to educate themselves about the disease, and who price gauge diabetic supplies simply because they can, are the real burdens to society.

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