Insulin: Its Economic Downfalls and Medical Necessities

By: Sarah Brill  |  October 24, 2019

Science and Technology

By Sarah Brill, Sci-Tech Editor

Did you know that as of 2017, approximately 1.25 million people in the United States were diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 40,000 people are diagnosed with it each year? Therefore, the likelihood of you sitting in a classroom or a lecture hall with at least one person with diabetes is very high. Type 1 diabetes is a deficiency of insulin in the pancreas which causes heightened glucose levels in the blood. It is a dangerous illness that can result in hospitalization (or even death) if not dealt with properly. The good news is that people with type 1 diabetes have control. They can control their diets to accommodate less sugar or carbohydrates in their systems and they use insulin pumps, which administer insulin into their bodies on a regular basis. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved a closed-loop insulin patch which is worn directly on the body and has a reservoir-pumping mechanism and infusion set inside a small case. Patch pumps are controlled wirelessly by a separate device that allows programming of insulin delivery for meals from the patch. This pump, however, can cost upwards of $400, not including diabetes test kits and insulin pump supplies. The House of Representatives reported that “the price of a milliliter of insulin rose from $4.34 in 2002 to $12.92 in 2013. And a March report…found [that] ‘prices continued to climb, nearly doubling between 2012 and 2016.’”

There is a silver lining for those who have insurance and are still paying an exorbitant amount for this life saving medicine. Earlier this year, Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado, became the first official to cap co-payments of insulin to $100 per month for insured patients. The law states that “one in four type 1 diabetics have reported insulin underuse due to the high cost of insulin … [t]herefore, it is important to enact policies to reduce the costs for Coloradans with diabetes to obtain life-saving and life-sustaining insulin.” Hopefully, lawmakers in New York State, and throughout the United States, look to Jared Polis’ system of “capping” and follow his lead. 

Even with this system however, we do run into another problem. Lawmakers, including Jared Polis, fail to recognize that expensive products are usually covered by major insurance providers, but insurers and sellers fail to admit that much of the population lives without insurance due to a host of financial issues. So where does that leave the rest of the population? The people who have insurance are getting the insulin assistance they need and those without are forced to either pay out-of-pocket for all medical necessities, including regular doctor visits, or find their own means of dealing with this dangerous deficiency.

The hope is that in the future, everyone is covered by insurance, and therefore, people who require a pump will not have anxiety over how they must take care of their bodies. 

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