Diabetes, in particular type 1 diabetes, can be an expensive chronic disease to manage.
That’s something in particular being felt as the cost of insulin increases, while at the same time high health insurance deductibles leave families on the hook to cover more of the cost than ever before.
It means, in some cases, all the expenses can climb past $1,000 a month.
There are two types of diabetes of which nearly 29.1 million Americans have one or the other. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, in which the body mistakenly kills so-called beta cells that are supposed to make the body’s insulin, a hormone that helps people absorb and process the sugar in food. This kind of diabetes can affect any age group, though it’s most often diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults.
The roughly 1.25 million people in the US who have Type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to live. Type 2 diabetes, the more common form, is something that develops either based on genetic or lifestyle choices, and doesn’t always require that you need to take insulin.
But insulin isn’t the only thing type 1 diabetics have to keep track of. There are a lot of supplies that come with the diagnosis:
- there are test strips, which help monitor blood sugar levels
- there are lancets that are used to draw the blood, not to mention alcohol swabs to clean the area where injections happen.
- There’s also a device called glucagon, an emergency drug for diabetics that is kind of like the EpiPen. If a diabetic’ blood sugar gets too low and he or she passes out, someone can administer the glucagon to get their blood sugar levels back up to non-emergency levels.
- Some also choose to use a continuous glucose monitor or an insulin pump.
These materials aren’t cheap. Test strips can cost a dollar per strip, sometimes more, depending on what brand you use or where they’re ordered. When you have to test eight or so times a day, that can easily add up. And glucose monitors and insulin pumps can add hundreds or thousands of dollars on top of that, depending on a person’s insurance and if they have hit their deductible yet.
The emergency device used in cases of extremely low blood sugar isn’t cheap either: The list price of the brand Glucagon has gone up 544% since 1998 when it was originally approved, according to Truven Health Analytics. One vial cost $40 in 1998, and now has a list price of $257.60.
Janine LePere, whose 12-year-old son Cole has Type 1 diabetes, remembers one night shortly after her son was diagnosed a little more than a year ago when she went in to test her son’s blood sugar levels.
“If you don’t get blood on strip right way, you have to start over with new strip,” LePere said. “I’ve got a cat who is awake and interested in what’s going on and keeps nudging.”
That night, it took her seven strips to get it right. Every time they would mess up and have to toss the strip, she and her son would say, “ka-ching!”
“It cost $8 to check blood sugar that night. There’s nothing I can do about it.”