Health insurance is a hot topic these days, with all the political volleying over trying (unsuccessfully) to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the ever-soaring costs of diabetes supplies and medications, and with open enrollment periods just around the corner...
As many 22 million Americans (or 7% of the population) have been without insurance at some point, and for those using insulin within the Diabetes Community that number is roughly 3% (or 180,000 people)! Additionally, those enrolled in "Obamacare" often point out that very high deductibles make it practically seem like they don't have insurance coverage.
These stories must be shared, and we're glad to be able to feature some here at the 'Mine, from those willing to speak out. Today, we welcome longtime T1 Chris Stocker in Florida, who blogs at The Life of a Diabetic, sharing a snapshot of his own struggles.
T1D Without Health Insurance, by Chris Stocker
In mid-2016, I lost my health insurance. I did not obtain health insurance again until January 2017. In total, it was about 5 ½ months that I went without health insurance.
Being a type 1 for more than a decade, this presented quite the challenge.
During this time period my biggest concern was insulin -- where I was going to get it from and how I was going to afford it.
Fortunately, I had about a month left of my last 90-day supply before I lost my insurance, so it gave me some breathing room. I also had test strips from that 90-day supply that I could probably stretch out for two months by lowering the amount of times I checked my BG from 5-6 per day down to 2-3 per day.
When I initially lost health insurance, my endo office provided me with samples of (long-acting) Tresiba and a few bottles of (fast-acting) Novolog.
I knew that paying for pump supplies was not going to be an option during this time period, so I knew I was going to need basal insulin. Unfortunately, the costs of basal insulins were just too expensive to try and purchase out of pocket, even with savings cards.
That meant I had no other choice but to switch to older insulins that I haven't used in decades -- specifically Novolin R, because Wal-Mart sold it for $27 a bottle.
I use 5-6 bottles of insulin a month. So I would just pay for 4-5 at a time if I could. However, a majority of the time the Wal-Mart I went to only had 1-2 vials in stock, so I just purchased what I could.
This still didn’t solve my basal insulin issue, so I had to come up with another solution. This solution is definitely not on-label, but when it comes to dire situations, you do what you have to do in order to survive.
The solution was this:
I would take a few units extra fast-acting insulin at every meal to act as a correction to not having basal insulin for the previous few hours. At night, whenever I would wake up, I would check my blood sugar. If it was higher than the last time, then I would take a correction of Novolin R. Around 3-4 in the morning, I would give myself a little bolus to act as the make-up for not having basal insulin in my system.
As a result of doing this for about five months, I had the two worst A1Cs since I was diagnosed almost 14 years ago.
The emotional toll no insurance had on me was excruciating. I wasn’t sleeping. I was stressed at all times because if something happened, I didn’t know how I was going to afford it. My daughter was only a 1-1/2 at the time, so the stress of caring for a toddler was adding to that.
But I made it through.
I did what I had to do to survive during that time period of "fllying blind." I now have insurance in 2017, and am thankful. It's not a very good insurance plan, but at least it has prescription medication coverage that helps with the costs.
When I see all of the attempts of politicians trying to take my insurance away from me again because of my pre-existing condition, it brings back those days of not having the insurance, needing to use Novolin R and having the highest A1C’s I’ve had since diagnosis. And I never want to go there again. None of us should have to.
So sorry to hear you had to go through that, Chris, but thank you so much for your willingness to share.