Breaking My Silence About How Insulin Prices Have Impacted My Life
When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I was on the verge of going into a diabetic coma and needed insulin to bring my glucose levels down from 593 to a normal range. I used insulin to manage diabetes for many months following my diagnosis and over the past seven years, insulin has been a part of my treatment regimen at various times. In the wake of the Insulin4All protests and discussions, I thought about how the high price of insulin caused me to make some very tough decisions.
The high price of insulin
Before the diagnosis, I had money in a savings account. It wasn’t much because I had just graduated from college and was working on my first job. Despite it not being a hefty sum, I was proud of my budding savings. Unfortunately, within a matter of months, my savings was completely wiped out and I was in debt. From February (when I was diagnosed) to December of 2011, I spent more than $12,000 just to stay alive and I have the tax receipts to prove it. The six-day hospital visit was $22,000 and my out-of-pocket portion was more than a month’s salary.
The magnitude of being in significant student loan and massive medical debt was depressing. I was frustrated and embarrassed. I never imagined being a university professor and having to make hard decisions about covering for my basic needs, but I did.
Cut back on spending to afford insulin and diabetes management
I stopped shopping at my favorite grocery stores, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter, where I found a wider selection of organic foods and fresher produce than at other grocery stores. The financial impact of insulin caused me to downgrade from these stores from being my regular spots to special-occasion only. Eventually, I could no longer afford to shop there at all.
My attitude about organic and non-GMO foods changed. I was once highly particular about reducing my digestion of excess chemicals and had become a cult-like member of the organic-only movement, but when the costs of organic foods exceeded my meager budget, I was forced to reconsider my moral principles on clean eating. It’s sad to admit, but on more than one occasion, I made meals from whatever I could find in the barrel of sale items at the lower-tier grocery store.
I learned to do car maintenance. When my car needed an oil change, I just bought oil from the local auto part store and filled the container myself. I knew the filter needed changing, but I hoped that the prayer I said over it would help it last a little longer. I went without air-conditioning in the North Carolina summer heat for months because the cost of insulin absorbed the money I set aside for car repairs. The one month I got a flat tire and my car was towed to the nearest service center, I cried inside. I simply didn’t have the extra funds. I had already erased an entertainment line from my budget and hadn’t seen a Blockbuster hit all summer. I used Youtube tutorials to learn how to style my hair to avoid paying someone. Consequently, the car repair ended up being another expense on my American Express.
I missed a relative’s funeral and the annual gathering with my closest college friends. I made excuses for not being able to attend both occasions because I doubted anyone would believe the truth. The truth was, at the end of each month, I was no longer able to make ends meet. I was a professional woman living alone in a one-bedroom apartment but the extra $300 per month that I needed to spend on insulin, needles, glucometer strips, and Endo visits sent me drowning financially.
I’m currently in a better place, but the impact of paying for insulin and diabetes management caused my credit debt to balloon above $5,000 and it’s taken many years to reach grown zero. I strongly support lowering the cost of insulin and I hope that by sharing my truth others will know just how serious the issue is for us.
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