Diabetes Ain’t Cheap

I’ve been seriously thinking about starting a blog for a few months now, but I didn’t feel much urgency about it until I learned that today is that start of the 7th Annual Diabetes Blog Week–created by Karen Graffeo of Bittersweet Diabetes. So, I’ll kick-off this blog in honor of a medical condition that I’ve been living with for over 20 years, DIABETES.

Today’s topic is “What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog?”

Diabetes is EXPENSIVE. Diabetes isn’t a cheap chronic illness to live with. I spend approximately $400 a month on medically necessary diabetes supplies–and that’s after I’ve met my deductible for the year. The reason that I spend that much on medication is that my insurance has instituted something called ‘cost-sharing’. Unlike a co-payment, when one pays a set dollar amount (say, a $35 copay for a preferred medication at every refill) for a defined service, medical supply, or medication, cost-sharing passes the burden on to the patient–often up to 66% of the cost of the medication or service.

In my case, my insurance company limits the co-share I have to pay for any one medication to $300 a month. (Gee, thanks?) Luckily, I haven’t needed any diabetes supplies or medications with at the max. cost share of $300, but I have two that are over $100 a month, and a couple of others that comes close. It costs me about $400 a month before I fill any non-diabetes medications I take. My health insurance company seems to have no interest in making my monthly costs sustainable, so I can stick with the treatment plan that keeps me healthy and hopefully avoiding more costly (for them!) complications down the road.

But it’s not just the patient’s direct expense of diabetes that is troubling. The cost of diabetes and complications of diabetes, on the macro level, is deeply disturbing. In 2012, the estimated economic impact of diabetes in the US was a staggering $244 billion, and that figure includes $69 billion in reduced productivity. So what exactly does reduced activity mean in this instance? It means that people aren’t able to work, or work as much as they would otherwise, due to diabetic complications, and it cost us $69 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is the monetary value of good and services produced inside a country’s border. That means a lot of people living with diabetes in the US are under-educated and undertreated for their diabetes!

Diabetes is a costly disease. The financial and emotional burden is extremely high. The cost to people who don’t have the condition is also high due to the macro effects. The most fortunate people with diabetes will get access to insulin, advanced treatment options, and medical equipment, like insulin pumps. You know, the things necessary to survive with this awful disease. The less fortunate will die or end up with complications from undertreatment, and cost us more money than if we had treated their diabetes early and aggressively. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I’ve become increasingly convinced that front-loading diabetes costs to reduce the cost of complications is a good start. And that I want to be part of clatter creating some urgency on this problem.