Monday, May 11, 2015

This Is What the Price of Insulin Does: Part 2

The price of insulin has made leaps and bounds in the past few years, causing many Type 1 diabetics to feel an unfair pinch. It is a necessary medication - one that keeps them alive and there are no generic versions, no alternative medications. Type 1 diabetics have no choice but to pay the cost - and it's a big one, one that could cost up to $900 per month (a figure that was given to me two weekends ago for the price of Humalog and Lantus in a Walgreens pharmacy).
   Insurance can be a life saver, provided you don't have a ginormous deductible to meet first. It can save you quite a bit, but even then you might still have to pay a large amount out of pocket.
   Stephanie Mejia was unfortunate enough to experience a huge deductible - $5,000. Nothing was covered until she met that. Now, her deductible is smaller, but is still $4,000. A Type 1 diabetic for 25 years, she is currently on the pump and must pay for all supplies out of pocket until that deductible is met. Luckily, the copay for her insulin is $10, but she said that has varied up to $60 a month over the years.
   Mejia first noticed the increase in 2005. "For some reason, that year everything changed," she said. "Insurances no longer wanted to cover all my supplies and my endo would have to fight for me to get them to cover things. . . . This is some bull crap. The medication didn't change. The price just went up and has increased incrementally yearly."
   Mejia stressed that she is not living an extravagant life nor is she trying to. She does not have a fancy car payment and has not gone on a vacation in four years because of the increased cost. "My medical expenses used to top out at about $500 a year," according to Mejia. "Now, I'm lucky if I spend less than $5,000 a year. This is huge! That's roughly $400 a month! That's a car payment!"
   Taking on another job has been the norm for Mejia during the past few years so that she can make ends meet. "I'm trying to maintain a normal middle income life, but being Type 1 has caused me to live at more of a poverty level life. When I need something, I typically forgo it because I have to pay for my medications and pump supplies instead."
   Jana Hirth in South Dakota has had Type 1 diabetes for 23 years. Currently on an insulin pump, she shells out $150 per month for Novolog. "It's infuriating, but I have to have insulin to live, so I pay it," she said.
   Hirth said she first noticed a drastic price increase in July 2014. And she adds that onto the cost of driving to see an endocrinologist 200 miles away, as there isn't one in her town. "I make cuts and do not see my doctor more than once a year," said Hirth. "Also, my husband and I have made cuts in the amount of money we spend on groceries, clothing and entertainment."
   Like many other Type 1's, Hirth does not foresee any relief. "Pharmaceutical companies can charge what they want. There is no cure and we need it to live, so we can't say no to the cost."
   Mejia and Hirth both feel the pinch in different ways, but it is still the same pinch. The monthly costs for both are different, but both have had to make the same type of budget adjustments to accommodate the rising price trend.
   "Unfortunately, I don't see this trend stopping," said Mejia "I feel it's only going to get worse and it scares me."

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