Insulin prices have more than tripled in the last 20 years for the same exact product, while health care executives continue profiting off an incurable disease.
His name was Shane Patrick Boyle. Shane was a Type 1Â diabetic (T1D), dependent on insulin, a hormone that the nondiabetic body naturally creates to regulate blood sugar and convert glucose into energy. Diabetics, both Type 1Â and insulin-dependent Type 2Â diabetics, must take insulin to stay alive. Without insulin, a diabetic will go into diabetic ketoacidosis, where blood glucose continues to build up and your body will use fat for fuel instead, creating ketones, which wreak havoc on the diabetic body and I can tell you from first hand experience, it is a painful, slow, process where you feel yourself becoming weaker, your body unable to sustain you.
I thought I was dying. It left me in the intensive care unit for a week. And it killed Shane Patrick Boyle,Â who came $50 short of crowdfunding his monthâ€™s dose of insulin. It killed Alec Raeshawn Smith, who lost his insurance and rationed his insulin until he was found dead in his apartment. These are not the first people who have died because they were unable to afford the medication they needed to stay alive, and they certainly wonâ€™t be the last.
My best friend Reagan, who I met at Clara Barton Camp, a camp for girls with T1D, was in the intensive care unit recently, going into diabetic ketoacidosis â€” which left untreated can be fatal. It cost her a couple thousand dollars to stay alive, after insurance. Without insurance? It would have cost her close to $90,000. When asked about her experience, she tearfully said:Â
It was terrifying. When youâ€™re laying in the hospital dying from an expensive, non-self-inflicted disease, the first thought in your mind should not be ‘Can I afford this?’, but it was, all because I was a sick diabetic.
The cost of medical care should not be a human life or a year’s salary.
Our health care system has failed us
I spend over $500 a month on my diabetes, $300 of that on insulin alone, and I am not only insured, but capable of paying for it. The American health care system has failed us. If the “right to life” is a basic human right, then insulin is a human right for a diabetic.
While insulin can be accessible through the Affordable Care ActÂ â€”Â in states where Medicaid has been expandedÂ â€”Â only certain insulins are subsidized, limiting the quality of care that diabetics are able to receive. While Medicaid expansion offers a temporary and limited solution, it is a Band-Aid, as insulin is still not entirely accessible and far too expensive.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that diabetics spend about $16,000 on health care annually, which is 2.3 times more than a person without diabetes would spend. Approximately $9,000 of the $16,000 is spent on diabetes care. As diabetics, we’re seen as a cash cow both by insurance companies and insulin manufacturers.
Insulin prices have more than tripled in the last 20 years for the same exact product and we must pay to stay alive, while health care executives continue profiting off an incurable disease that requires the patient to take one or more types of insulin. We can not allow this to continue, but what is our alternative? Death?
Perhaps it’s time for Congress to introduce legislation that ends the needless inflation of medications like insulinÂ â€”Â which people would die withoutÂ â€”Â or to take it one step further and make all medication that is necessary to sustain a lifeÂ free to those who need it. It is absolutely shameful that in America, a developed country that is capable of spending over half of its federal spending budget on the military and only a measly six percent on health care allows people to die slow, painful, preventable deaths because medical care is too expensive.
Victoria Gagliardo-Silver is a New York-based writer and student. You can follow her on Twitter:Â @Viccsilver.
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