The affordability of diabetes treatment has become a hot topic since the Biden administration pushed to approve a spending cap on annual costs for insulin. But despite the slight turn of progress, a recent study discovers immoderate rates have forced over a million Americans to ration their insulin intake, running a dangerous risk to their health.
The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study exposing that roughly 1.3 million Americans are so financially overwhelmed, they cannot afford the required doses of insulin needed to maintain proper health while managing the disease. Those participants without health insurance rationed most frequently, while diabetics 65 and older had the smallest rate of rationing, although most of this demographic are covered by Medicaid health insurance.
Insulin, a pancreatic hormone produced to regulate glucose levels in the blood, is as vital to a diabetic’s survival as the food and water we consume. Dr. Abbas Motazedi, MD endocrinologist with the Center of Diabetes in NE Washington, D.C., maintains a patient base mostly covered by insurance, while providing feasible options for those without insurance to continue receiving the life-saving treatments.
“Unfortunately, most of the insurance companies are shifting the cost to the consumers. Their premiums go up, the cost of co-payment of insulin goes up, or they don’t cover it. The office co-payment goes up. It gets to a point where they have to choose between food and insulin, and their medications,” Dr. Motazedi said.
And the very fight between whether one can afford to eat, or maintain their proper insulin levels is the unfortunate battle that often shows results in the long term. The gradual ramifications of underdosing insulin treatments create a high potential for the body to fall ill from inconsistent glucose regulation over an extended period of time.
“Nothing happens overnight. Diabetes is a long-term complication that happens as a result of uncontrolled diabetes,” said Dr. Motazedi. Generally at least after 5 to 10 years of uncontrolled diabetes [is] when you start seeing complications like heart disease, kidney disease, atherosclerosis vascular diseases with narrowing of the vessels – and many of them end up with amputation of the leg, stroke, heart attack, [or] kidney failure and dialysis. So, this is a major health issue.”
In efforts to prevent diabetic complications due to lack of finances, the Center of Diabetes is one of the multiple medical facilities that partner with health organizations working to provide low-income families with access to stabilizing healthcare needs. Lilly Cares Foundation, Inc., for example, is a nonprofit organization working to serve an indigent demographic of diabetic patients and provide them with quality-tier insulin. The organization works closely with the Center of Diabetes to ensure those District patients facing financial hardship can continue to receive needed healthcare.
District resources similar to DC Healthy Families, Catholic Charities, and other local organizations are also available as they continuously work to serve those uninsured residents avoiding medical care due to a lack of financial resources.