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Young diabetes sufferers pumped by new decision

Insulin pumps now covered by B.C. Pharmacare until age 25
Susan Kidd started using an insulin pump 15 years ago and is on her third device. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

Marnie Wilson thinks it’s great B.C. PharmaCare now covers insulin pumps for youth up to age 25 who have type 1 diabetes.
Her 14-year-old daughter Jessica has been researching insulin pumps, but the Wilsons weren’t sure they could afford to buy one just yet.
Until last month, B.C. PharmaCare covered insulin pumps for youth with type 1 diabetes up to and including age 18.
“This announcement extends that coverage to include those who are transitioning to early adulthood, and may not have access to third party insurance coverage, or who cannot afford to buy an insulin pump,” states a press release from the Ministry of Health.
“Once they hit adulthood they were basically on their own,” Wilson said. “So that was good news to know that that will be extended for a number of years for her and for others.”
The provincial government states the average cost of an insulin pump is about $6,500. It announced Feb. 27 that PharmaCare will cover the cost of a pump up to $6,600.
“I wish I was a youth up to 25,” said 47-year-old Susan Kidd, who started using insulin pumps 15 years ago and is on her third one.
Her parents helped her pay the $5,000 for her first pump because she lacked medical coverage. Kidd believes her last pump cost $7,500 and her extended medical covered 80 per cent.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone that helps your body control the level of glucose or sugar in your blood. People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin with a pen, syringe or pump. They must pay attention to their activity levels and adjust what they eat or how much insulin they inject to keep their blood glucose levels stable. Low blood sugar levels can lead to unconsciousness and high blood sugar levels can lead to complications that include heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage.
Pager-sized insulin pumps are attached to their owner’s abdomen. They replicate the action of the pancreas by delivering small amounts of insulin throughout the day. After eating, a wearer pushes a button to administer a bit more insulin.
“I’m pretty active so with the pump, if I decide I’m going to go for a workout now or a longer walk, I can reduce the amount of insulin that I’m getting for that time period and then I don’t have to end up eating a whole bunch more or having a low blood sugar later on,” Kidd said.
She says her blood glucose levels have been “much more consistent” since she traded multiple daily injections for the pump.
B.C. PharmaCare began covering insulin pumps for youth age 18 and younger in 2008.
Joan King, an advocacy manager for the Canadian Diabetes Association in Alberta, said her province only started covering insulin pumps last year, but it covers them for people of any age.
“To me, it makes absolutely no sense to have individual provincial healthcare plans covering different things,” Kidd said. “That’s my pet peeve.”
She said that in at least one Scandinavian country, people with type 1 diabetes proceed straight to a pump that’s paid for by the government; there’s no talk of injections.
“The recognition is that these technologies save lives, save complications, save ultimately huge amounts of money from keeping people out of hospitals,” Kidd said. “The dollars are pretty staggering when you look at an amputation, you look at kidney failure, dialysis. But you also have taken somebody out of a taxpayer scenario so you’re losing on both sides.”
Sporty Jessica says she’d favour a waterproof pump.
Her mother hopes the need for such considerations will soon evaporate.
“I just hope that they find a cure before she’s 25 so that it’s not an issue by then,” Wilson said.