24-year old Jessica Williams, a long-time JDRF volunteer turned JDRF staff member who has been living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for 14 years now, is focused on enjoying her life as much as she can. She credits the freedom she has to her insulin pump but keeping both has been a battle.
“Recently, I didn’t have insurance to cover [the pump] and neither did my partner,” Jessica recounts as she’s overcome with emotion. “I was telling myself that I’d have to go back to needles, but my big fear was that I wouldn’t do it and would end up hurting myself. The pump just gives you so much freedom and control.”
Jessica’s experience is not unique. One of the biggest challenges facing Canadians living with T1D is the significant out-of-pocket expense required to manage their disease. “If I didn’t have coverage through pharmacare or my partner’s insurance it would be $700 out of my own pocket every month,” says Jessica who now gets coverage as a JDRF staff member.
The medical benefits of using insulin pumps over daily injections are significant, with a reduction in glucose variability and improved quality of life observed in users. And while some provinces and territories provide coverage for these devices, most of the time it’s only covered until 18, 19 or 25 years of age (depending on the province or territory), leaving young adults to carry this financial burden for the rest of their adult lives. Jessica and all other insulin pump users know what the solution to this problem is: Provinces and territories need to remove age restrictions on insulin pump coverage. But this won’t be done without the T1D community’s help.
“Start doing things,” says Jessica. “You need to start making those phone calls, start writing those letters, start booking those meetings. While it does take time out of your busy schedules, it doesn’t do anything to sit and talk to people unless you’re talking to the right people. It makes such a big difference to get actively involved.” That’s why we’ve made it easy for the T1D community to speak out and help remove age restrictions on insulin pump coverage by emailing their provincial representative.
It’s important to know that even for those like Jessica who do get insulin pump coverage through their employment insurance, it is not always an easy process to navigate. “Even though I’m covered for the pump now, I need to provide proof that I need it,” explains Jessica. “My pharmacy needs to send all of my prescriptions to my endocrinologist, and then my endocrinologist has to sign them and complete a letter stating that I have diabetes. I’m talking to three different people [from the insurance company] and it’s taking close to a month just to prove that I have diabetes, that I have a pump and that I need coverage.”
Private coverage is important, but provinces and territories can set a good example for all insurance companies by supporting the immediate needs of the type 1 diabetes community. If you’d like to help people like Jessica and make insulin pumps accessible for everyone living with T1D, send a letter to your Premier and Minister of Health urging them to remove age restrictions and improve the lives of thousands of Canadians.