The Cost of Being Diabetic

I have almost met my deductible for my health insurance this year already. I have better than most insurance as that deductible is only $500 instead of the $6,000 I’ve heard people tell me exists out there. It also caps my out of pocket at about $2,250. Now that being said it does not always work like that. Last year after a failed attempt at using an insulin pump, I had reached that out of pocket limit in June I think it was. However, I was still charged a full price to see another endocrinologist in October for a second opinion. I also never got a good answer on why that one bill was not paid.

Regardless of the insurance issue I wanted to talk about the cost of the insulin. Why? Because this issue has become a hot button for diabetics everywhere. Insulin has jumped from about $35 dollars when I was first given it 40 years ago to about $294 now. I can hear the responses now. “That is not too bad. Why are you whining about it? It is the exact same 40 year old insulin I was on in the beginning. It has not been changed or made better. It has not been modified as to what it can or will do for me. I actually had to fight to be placed back on it after the pump didn’t work out. It only lasts 12 hours so I can take more when I need and less when I do not. Most doctors push for the “new and improved” 24 hour insulins. I always asked why an insulin I take every 24 hours is advertised by the makers as lasting 36 to 42 hours in my system. Isn’t that insulin loading, building more insulin in the system than needed for no reason?

Back to the cost issues for this, I got my first insulin bottle for my long term (the 40 year old) insulin and was actually surprised at the lower than expected cost. It was $146 for the 10ml bottle. It will last me most likely a month give or take. I was expecting the $380 I had been hearing of from other diabetics on facebook and twitter, nice but strange.

Earlier this week I got my first bottle of short term insulin and then was hit with sticker shock. It was $294 for the same size bottle. The problem I have with this cost is not only the difference but that this higher costing insulin is the one that A.) I can not live without, and B.)I use so much more of it. I go through a bottle every 2 weeks.  I take it whenever I eat something or if my blood sugar is really high. I do not waste it on “kind” of high which will over time shorten my life span. Oh please, I am not worried about it as I was sure with all the doom and gloom talk back in the beginning I was not going to make past 40. I’m 48 now so I’m 8 years past my expiration date.

To put these cost into perspective, My monthly cost for the long term insulin is about $146 and for the short term insulin about $588. Her is another issue I have about this cost. I know other people are being charged $380 for these insulins but yet the insurance company can negotiate a discount to $146. You know they are still getting some profit off that lower price, no use being in business if you can’t make money, so that $234 difference is pure profit off a medicine that people will die without, talk about a captive audience. How about they start to charge you for every cubic meter of air you breathe? You can’t pay you don’t breathe. It is the same concept. Diabetics can not live without insulin but companies make insane profits from that need.

Years ago a law was passed to prevent US citizens from going to or continuing to use Canadian or Mexican pharmacies to fill the need for much less. The cost of insulin in England for example is from 5 to 7 times cheaper. Yes you saw that right, it is not percent cheaper but times. That means the bottle that cost $380 here in the USA is only about $56 in England. Articles I have read on this subject use the excuse that it is higher here because the companies have to meet much higher standards than foreign companies. Another recent article claims that tests on bottles of insulin have shown below acceptable levels of purity here in the USA. So where is that benefit of that higher cost?

I looked at the financial papers for 2 big drug companies and found that they make almost as much in the USA as in the rest of the world combined. Some critics of having a controlled, government run, drug program is that if you lower the price of these drugs then the companies will not be willing to spend money on better meds or maybe cures. Cures? Why create a cure for something that is making you tons of money treating it for a lifetime.

I can only talk from a diabetic’s perspective but other diseases are taken advantage of just as bad. Epileptics need seizure meds, transplant patients need antirejection meds,  and the one that garnered the biggest response recently was the epinephrine pens for people with life threatening allergies. Those CEOs got hauled into congress to explain why they jacked the cost so high so fast. No good answers were given that I have heard yet. Insulin has not been as fast but it risen just far as epinephrine.

A few states are taking this matter seriously. Nevada, at the beginning of this month, has a law that requires drugs companies to publicly explain any rise in cost for medications like insulin. Colorado is now trying to pass a similar law. These laws do not have any teeth to fine or otherwise force a lowering of costs but it makes them accountable to the public for WHY it is going up. Production costs have gone up with the wage increases we gave out this year. That’s great. Good to se that the massive tax break work its magic. Telling people that it going up because you want to buy a mansion in Brazil or pad your Cayman Island bank account will not go over as well.

I few other pro-diabetic bloggers have written about this issue and I just wanted to add my voice to theirs as well as add my views and experiences. There is no easy solution to this problem. If things are not changed in another 5 to 10 years I will have to sell my truck to get a bottle of insulin to live. At the current rate of increase that bottle of insulin will cost about $500. That is more than a weeks pay.

The free market system that is being touted as the best way to reduce the cost of our health care system is also the reason for this jump in medication prices. I’m not buying a can pop to quench a thirst, I’m buying a way for me to stay alive. I’m not getting  plastic surgery done because my nose is too big or thin, I’m keeping my blood sugars under control so I can maybe live a few more years. I wish I could believe in the free market system but it is system that is in no way free for me. I am chained to it like a horse to a plow. They raise the prices I have to pay it regardless. Like I said we are a captive audience in this show. We can’t get up and leave when we want. We have to stay seated or loose more than just our seat.

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