Insulin can be expensive, but there are options for those in need
By Beyond Type 1
Published 10:12 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2020 | Updated 2:26 p.m. ET Oct. 7, 2020
Christine Kanderski lives with both her son (left), who has Type 1 diabetes, and her mother (right), who has Type 2 diabetes. (Photo: Christine Kanderski)
Living with diabetes in the United States can be expensive. A recent American Diabetes Association study showed that people with diabetes incur an average of about $16,750 in medical expenditures per year.1
The heavy financial burden of diabetes is something Christine Kanderski knows all too well. Kanderski lives with both her mother, who has Type 2 diabetes, and her son, who has Type 1 diabetes.
“We have to factor in quarterly hospital visits, medical supplies, backup medical supplies, understanding our insurance deductible and how that affects our household,” she said. “One of my biggest concerns is insulin and medical supply costs.”
Indeed, one of the most expensive things people with diabetes often need to budget for is the drug that keeps them alive: insulin.
If you or someone you love is struggling to access insulin, go to GetInsulin.org.
Skyrocketing insulin prices
Over the past decade, the list prices of several common kinds of insulin have approximately tripled, with a single vial of some manufacturers’ insulins costing around $300.2 For people who have high-deductible insurance plans or don’t have health insurance, insulin can cost upward of $1,000 a month.3
Dr. Anne Peters, director of the University of Southern California Clinical Diabetes Programs, has witnessed the effects of rising insulin costs, saying that “insulin access has become a very big issue for my patients, both in terms of how much they have to pay and fear of running out. The cost has gone up so much, and the insurance plans have become worse at paying for it.”
Widespread health care reform may be necessary to control the drug pricing problem in the United States. People with diabetes are in need of immediate help accessing insulin.
Katie Martin’s son Kaleb (left) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013. (Photo: Katie Martin)
Katie Martin’s son Kaleb was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013, and she recalls being overwhelmed with new information at the time of his diagnosis.
“You go through all this stuff about how to care for and keep your kid alive,” she said. “But no one gave me the heads-up that insulin was really expensive.”
It wasn’t until Martin needed more insulin that she realized just how expensive the drug was. Katie Martin’s family didn’t have health insurance at the time.
When her son’s insulin was running low, Martin went to the pharmacy to get refills. The mother of two recalls that when the pharmacist read her the price, she began crying in the middle of the store.
For people like Martin who don’t have health insurance or others whose insurance doesn’t cover the cost of insulin, there are myriad programs and coupons available if you can find them.
Martin recalls going home after being unable to afford her son’s insulin and calling her endocrinologist’s office. She made an appointment for the next day, and a diabetes educator helped her fill out the paperwork for a patient assistance program for those who cannot afford their insulin. These programs are made available by drug manufacturers for families and individuals under a certain income threshold, but many may not know about them or whether they qualify.
After filling out the paperwork, sending it in and waiting a week, Martin was able to pick up a six-month supply of her son’s insulin at her doctor’s office at no cost. Martin considers herself lucky that her family had access to health care professionals who were aware of patient assistance programs and took the time to help her fill out the paperwork.
Peters has noticed a similar shift among her patients as insulin prices have risen.
“I spend a lot of my time dealing with how to make insulin affordable for my patient rather than trying to manage my patient’s diabetes,” she said. “Sometimes almost an entire visit is spent just trying to figure out how to make it affordable. It’s a conversation I didn’t use to have; I used to be able to just manage patients.”
How to access affordable insulin
In addition to patient assistance programs, there are several other options available to patients who are having trouble affording their insulin. Copay cards, savings programs, new biosimilar options and government health insurance are just some of the ways that patients can save on insulin.
Getinsulin.org is a new tool for people in the United States who need help affording their insulin, regardless of the brand of medication. On GetInsulin.org, users answer a few questions — such as location, insurance type, income and prescription — then receive customized action plans to guide them to solutions that best serve their unique circumstances.
“High-quality, modern insulin must be available to people with diabetes regardless of employment or insurance status, across all demographics, without barriers, and at an affordable and predictable price point,” said Thom Scher, CEO of Beyond Type 1.
If you or someone you love has diabetes, do not go without insulin. Insulin is a critical, life-sustaining medication. If you are struggling to access insulin, go to GetInsulin.org.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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