Location: Central Pennsylvania
Medicaid Eligibility: Not eligible
COBRA Premiums: Unaffordable
Mary describes her situation of falling through the cracks of the flawed COBRA and public assistance systems as well as the pharmaceutical companies that have helped her and those that have left her fearing for her life:
I am a 50 yr. old female with insulin dependent Type 1 LADA diabetes for the past 22 years. I have been on an insulin pump for almost 11 years and test my blood sugar multiple times daily in an effort to maintain a good A1C and prevent future health problems such as kidney failure, blindness, neuropathy, etc. My pump, insulin, and test strip are all integral parts of caring for my body as I live daily with the challenges of diabetes.
19 months ago we lost our health insurance due to my husband’s unemployment. Although he diligently seeks employment, in our current economic climate he has not been able to secure permanent employment with benefits. He has been able to do some day jobs and part-time work, etc. Might I add at this point, we live in Central Pennsylvania and there are not many jobs available in our town or the surrounding areas.
Yes, many uninformed or never unemployed people will say, “Oh, that’s ok because now you can get Cobra.” I generally try to help them understand that unemployment means you are living on a fraction of your previous income. Yes, it is possible to purchase Cobra health insurance; however, what bills are you not going to pay so you can pay for Cobra. Shall I skip the mortgage payment? Perhaps drive illegally and save on car insurance? Hmmm….cut heating cost? (Not really possible in Pennsylvania.) You see, many unemployed or low-income folks do not qualify for a medical card via their local welfare offices. As many others in our situation, we limit our visits to the doctor. For example, a recent rash sent me to the doctor for antibiotics. This simple rash that had exhausted all home treatments had a final price tag of $76.44. A doctor visit and then the price of the antibiotics; diabetics cannot afford to let an infection go untreated.
If it were not for the Lilly Patient Assistance Program , I would not have the insulin my body needs to live. Financially, we could not possibly be able to purchase the insulin on our own. Also, my pump company, Minimed, was able to give me several months worth of supplies via their assistance program. I have been able to keep my pump running because of the generosity of other diabetics. I have had several friends over the years who have either changed pump brands or had a pancreas transplant and they have given me their unused supplies. God saw my need before I knew about it and their supplies were simply stored in my closet.
As of this writing, we are still unemployed and uninsured. We are daily looking for ways to keep our medical expenses to a minimum and yet not ignoring the fact that we both live with chronic diseases. We are currently purchasing all of my test strips because assistance is not available. One manufacturer, Roche, who did offer assistance changed their program this year and only offers help through free outreach clinics. It sounds like a great idea, unless you happen live in an area without free clinics. We live in a rural area without any free clinics; since we live in a different county, we aren’t eligible for test strip assistance at those clinics within driving distance. (Also, they are 1+ hrs. away).
At the beginning of our unemployment situation, we went for about 8 -10 weeks without any income. Of course, also without any health insurance; but, my diabetes didn’t go away during this time… I still had needs. It was at this point in time I discovered ACT1 through a diabetic website. I had been searching for assistance with the cost of my test strips and could not find any help available. Through their supply exchange program ACT 1 was able to help me with my need for test strips. Testing blood glucose is crucial for a diabetics care. I was and still am very thankful for the folks at ACT1 who were able to meet my need. I applaud this group of diabetics at ACT1 for their efforts in helping fellow diabetics.
While the uninsured diabetic is trying to keeping up with their endo visits and diabetic needs, may it not be forgotten that they are also trying keeping their dental and eye exam appointments as well. Uninsured includes lacking not just medical and prescription coverage, but also eye and dental….none of which we can afford to neglect.