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World Diabetes Day, November 14: The Cost Of Diabetes

Updated on November 14, 2017
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

A Disease With A High Cost


The Cost Is Terrible

The numbers of people I now know with diabetes now fills at least one hand and then some.

One of my oldest daughter's friends has it. I've got at least two students with it, and at least one of my colleagues lives with diabetes. There's also my teenage warrior buddy. All of them, dealing with a disease they didn't have any control over having and having to live with it for the rest of their lives, failing any sort of sudden (or not so sudden) cure.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, too. It's estimated that by 2020, 4.2 million Canadians will be living with diabetes, and the costs associated with living with the disease continue to be significant. While it's not right that anyone should live with any disease, diabetes carries with it annual costs that last for the person's lifetime.

57 percent of Canadians with diabetes who were surveyed by the Canadian Diabetes Association admit they don't follow their prescribed therapy, whether that includes medications, devices or supplies, simply because they couldn't afford it. When you're talking about Canadians not being able to afford the medical supplies they need to survive due to a disease, that's terrible. No one - ever - should have to choose what medications they'll get because they can only afford certain parts of their therapy.

Depending on where the diabetic lives, out of pocket costs can include things like:

• Diabetes management supplies, such as syringes, lancets, glucose testing meters, test strips and insulin pumps and supplies.

• Insulin and/or other diabetes-related medications. • Medication to lower blood pressure and other medications to treat diabetes-related complications.

• Frequent medical visits and diagnostic tests.

• Specialized home care visits, and rehabilitation or permanent residential care should debilitating complications arise.

(The Burden Of Out-Of-Pocket Costs For Canadians)

If people don't follow their diabetes therapies, they run the risk of developing life-threatening illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and depression.

The out-of-pocket cost of living just for the means to manage diabetes can be greater than the 3 percent of family income threshold that's estimated for most Canadians. In other words, if someone makes approximately $50,000 CDN yearly, 3 percent of that is $1500. What this means is that costs can reach anywhere from a low end threshold of about $1,500 monthly and upwards of that.

Parents with a diabetic child bear the brunt of the expense when the child is under 18. When the child turns 18 and has to determine exactly how they're going to cover the costs of the medication they need to survive because those costs are so high compared to any income they might be receiving at the time, some hard decisions that should never have to be made suddenly show up on the table.

Something Needs To Be Done


We Shouldn't Fight For Medicine

In 2003, the First Ministers met and agreed that all Canadians should “have access to the drugs they need without undue financial hardship." That was 14 years ago, and yet, we are still living in a time when neither provincial health coverage nor benefits packages will fully cover expenses for diseases like diabetes, and many diabetic individuals are still struggling to figure out where they might be able to afford their next batch of glucose test strips or whatever they might need.

Sure, there are a host of financial support programs which individuals could apply to; in Ontario alone, the Canadian Diabetes Association has a list that's 25 pages long of programs people could apply to in order to cover the cost of their supplies or medications. There are a few problems, though; acceptance into the programs are not guaranteed and often, the paperwork that an individual needs to work through in order to understand exactly what the application for benefits is looking for is so daunting that people are often frustrated by the process.

Why should people have to pay so much for medication that is quite literally life saving? I've never understood that; much is made of Canada's "free" health care system, yet people are fighting for money with which to pay for their medication or supplies that will help them lead long and hopefully healthy lives.

When is it going to be time that health care companies step forward and realize that their prices for medication and supplies could quite literally be killing the people the medication is supposed to help?

When are our ministers of health in Canada actually going to step forward and do something to help people actually be able to afford the medication and supplies? Or do more than just play lip service to the notion that no Canadian should face "undue financial hardship" for medications that they need? Not everyone can afford a benefits package, and not everyone has a benefits package at their place of work that they can access. In addition, not all benefits packages have the coverage people need to afford what they need as far as their medications or treatments go.

These not-for-profit agencies that have been in existence for years as ways to help people cope with a wide range of illnesses including diabetes are wonderful, but the bare truth of the matter is, like most diseases, its victims are often indiscriminately chosen. Those with diabetes, or any disease, for that matter, have little to no say in the treatment options or the medications used.

Why should anyone have to fight to afford the medication they need just for survival?


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