Recently, while scrolling through discussions posted on an online diabetes forum, I came across one from a man in his thirties who wrote about how paramedics had found his twin brother face down in a sauna, in an insulin shock coma. How did he end up in such a state? The appalling answer is, he didn’t have enough glucose strips to test before he got into the hot tub. A few weeks before the sauna incident, his insurance company had limited his glucose strips to just four per day.
For anyone with insulin-dependent diabetes, that is just asking for trouble. Testing at meals alone (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the recommended bedtime snack) would eat up his entire allotment. What about the days when, no matter what you do, your glucose levels just aren’t cooperating? You’re also supposed to test before you drive, before you exercise, after you exercise, and even more often when you’re sick. I personally test about ten times per day, even at 3 a.m. These tests are necessary in order to achieve the beautiful A1C results that doctors and insurance companies are always touting.
So why do insurance companies play God by limiting our supplies? If we’re not testing, our odds of going into shock or ketoacidosis are much higher, and the cost of keeping us in an intensive care unit to recover is more expensive than a few more strips per day.
A few years ago, my former insurance company put a limit on my diabetes supplies. There is nothing quite like the terror that you feel as you watch your medication supply dwindling down to nothing, and you know that you’ve got a full week to go before your insurance will authorize a refill. We need these things to survive, so it’s more than horror-movie scary: It’s a real life fear of imminent death. You stand paralyzed, watching the Grim Reaper slowly drag his scythe up the road toward you. Every month you watch him coming, and it’s on your last breath, when he’s staring you right in the face, that you dodge him and buy yourself one more month–just to do it again the next month.
I’m in a better place with a larger insurance company these days, but I will never forget that fear. Insurance companies should not have that power. No one should have the authority to put our lives on the line. That control belongs to each one of us, and us alone. So, I have a message for the insurance companies. Please take a moment to chew on this: You can’t make money off of a dead person.