In order to amplify the voices of those of us who oppose the recent mandate by UnitedHealthCare to cover only Medtronic pumps, DPAC (Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition) is asking everyone affected by diabetes to share their story. Follow this link to help DPAC gather “stories to share publicly within the community and, perhaps more importantly, within the healthcare and legislative communities.” Your voice will help prove that #DiabetesAccessMatters and will advocate for #MyPumpChoice and #PatientsOverProfits.
I don’t know whether my experiences will help because my diabetes narrative is that of a “privileged patient” who has always had access to prescribed insulins, meters, pumps, and CGM’s. How do I prove that access and choice have made a difference?
My Story as Submitted to DPAC:
I have had Type 1 diabetes since 1976. When I was diagnosed there was no home blood glucose monitoring and I took 1 injection of insulin per day. My chances for a long healthy life were minimal and complications such as blindness, amputation, and kidney disease were seen as almost inevitable.
Today I am 64 years old. I have gray hair and am stiff from arthritis, but my eyes are fine. My body has bruises and rashes from pump and CGM sites, but I have no numbness in my feet and my kidney function is fine. I rarely have a day without lows requiring glucose tabs, but I have not needed my husband to fetch emergency orange juice since starting the Dexcom G4 in 2012. My lab tests are good and my cardiac function tests are excellent.
So what happened?
Hard work paid off. Lucky genes probably helped. But what is most important is that I had ACCESS.
ACCESS to medical professionals who learned through the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) that controlling blood sugar results in better health for people with Type 1 diabetes.
ACCESS to new and improved insulin products as they were brought to market.
ACCESS to the newest technologies which began with home BG meters in the early 1980’s and expanded to insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGM) in later years.
ACCESS to education about how to optimally manage my diabetes.
ACCESS to social support through the DOC (Diabetes Online Community).
Along with access, I had CHOICE.
When my internal medicine doctor was unqualified to prescribe a pump, I CHOSE to switch to an endocrinologist.
After experimenting to prove that the blood glucose monitor I was using was unreliable, I CHOSE to switch brands to a meter which provided more consistent results.
When my endocrinologist and I agreed that my diabetes could be better managed with an insulin pump as opposed to injections, I investigated my options and CHOSE the pump that I believed would give me the best results.
When my doctor prescribed a CGM to combat my hypo-unawareness and extreme lows, I CHOSE to give it a try.
After a few years of failure with the CGM brand that I selected, my doctor and I worked together and CHOSE the competing brand.
I am incredibly lucky to have always had good insurance. I have had access and I have had choice. Many years ago my insurance was provided as one of my husband’s work benefits. The cost to us was minimal. Today I pay huge insurance premiums, but I still have access to the medications and durable medical equipment (pump and CGM) that my endocrinologist and I choose.
An insurance company is in business to make money and does not have a license to practice medicine. Once I pay my premiums, access and choice should be in my hands and those of my medical team. The idea that UnitedHealthCare has the right to change its policies on insulin pumps mid-year and mid-contract is wrong. Big players in the game making deals to reduce competition and limit choice should not be allowed.
How do I prove that ACCESS and CHOICE have made a difference in my life with diabetes?
I look in the mirror.