Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that seniors with diabetes will see a copayment cap on insulin purchases for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, advocates and doctors for diabetic patients have responded positively to the proposed change.
Dr. Bruce W. Bode, of Atlanta Diabetes Associates, laid out how important this change will be for patients in need of insulin for diabetic care.
“The reason why this is so important is prior to this the cost of insulin can be upwards of $900 for a patient going into a pharmacy, and obviously if you don’t have the cash, people often go, go without insulin and especially if you have type 1 diabetes and you go without insulin you’re going to go into ketoacidosis and end up in the hospital. We typically have three to five patients a week at Piedmont Hospital coming in with ketoacidosis because they can’t afford their insulin,” Bode said.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication in patients arising from a lack of insulin in the blood stream leading to blood acids, or ketones, building up and causing symptoms such as thirst, nausea, abodminal pain, weakness, confusion, and other potentially harmful effects.
As the cost of insulin has increased year over year, insulin rationing has become more common among Americans. Rationing your doses or fully stopping taking insulin due to the cost can lead to a variety of potential health complications for diabetic patients, including the aforementioned ketoacidosis.
“If you need insulin, you should, you know this is an essential drug, without it people can die, they get complications if they can’t manage their glucoses and this has been ongoing for a long time. the prices of insulin have been going up for the last fifteen years. And they’re reaching, you know a vial of insulin could be upwards of $500 and the way Medicare is set up, people have to meet their deductible and thus they have to pay 500 or 1000 dollars to get their insulin, and if they don’t have the money it’s a bad situation,” Bode says.
Atlanta Diabetes Associates treats many diabetic patients, including those with Medicare benefits.
Bode says about there are about 3,500 to 4,000 patients at Atlanta Diabetes Associates. Of those patients, he says about 55 percent of those patients are on Medicare. meaning they’re above 65 and could be disabled.
“I think when this happens in January, it’ll be easy for patients to get their insulin, they don’t have to worry about, obviously in the past they would decrease their doses to try to make sure they can get the most out of it. The key with insulin is that if you need 30 units, you need 30 units, you can’t say I’m just gonna take 15 units,” Bode said.