Type 1 diabetes is a serious health condition that often presents itself in childhood. Formerly called juvenile diabetes, the condition requires lifelong management and medication because the pancreas stops making insulin, a life-sustaining hormone. If you’re someone living with health insurance insecurity, the cost of diabetes can soar and become unmanageable. In fact, gaps in health insurance can be the difference between someone with type 1 diabetes managing their disease and becoming homeless.
Type 1 diabetes is an expensive autoimmune illness that cannot be prevented or predicted. People with type 1 diabetes should see their endocrinologist about four times a year (or once per quarter) to make sure their medication is effective and their blood sugar levels are in the safest possible range. It’s also important for people with diabetes to see eye doctors regularly to make sure their eyes are healthy. With such a vast care team, the cost of diabetes can quickly become overwhelming for someone who is temporarily uninsured.
The cost of diabetes without insurance
The cost of diabetes with insurance is high, but without insurance, diabetes management could be financially devastating. Test strips and insulin alone can easily cost about $1,000, and an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) cost about $5,000 each. Even more, monthly supplies for these items run about $500.
Without insurance, test strips cost more than $1 per strip. Most people with type 1 diabetes need four to eight test strips per day. If you’re living without insurance, the cost of test strips alone could make you want to not test as often, which could result in poorly controlled blood sugar and life-threatening complications.
Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs based on your annual income. However, these programs often have lengthy applications processes and don’t accommodate urgent diabetes care needs or lack of medical insurance.
A study performed by the University of Michigan found that people living with type 1 diabetes “with a gap of insurance coverage for more than 30 days are five times more likely to visit the emergency room or urgent care center.” This places a huge financial burden on people who may already be impoverished, forcing people to choose between paying rent or buying the necessary amount of insulin.
Just last year, a man named Shane Patrick Boyle died after his fundraising account failed to reach the amount he needed to buy more insulin. Boyle was in the middle of an insurance gap, waiting for his Marketplace policy to kick in. Unfortunately, stories like Boyle’s are not uncommon due to soaring drug prices and unattainable health coverage in the United States.
One Drop is a diabetes management company that supplies its users with an unlimited supply of test strips for a low monthly subscription fee. Typically, you would have to get a doctor’s prescription for all of your diabetes management tools. But with One Drop, you pay $39.99 per month and can order as many test strips as you need every month without a doctor’s approval. This company aims to do two things: make the lives of those with diabetes easier, and disrupt the pharmaceutical industry’s hold on diabetes management tools.
With companies like One Drop helping consumers lower the cost of diabetes, having gaps in medical insurance can become less scary and life-threatening.