Gia Mannone is a second year Integrated Health Social Work graduate student who interns at the Long Island Alzheimer’s and Dementia Center.
Imagine having to choose between purchasing your medication or paying your rent for the month. This would be a difficult decision for anyone, however, this is a grave reality for individuals suffering with the chronic illness of diabetes.
Individuals struggling with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2) depend on insulin for survival. Pharmaceutical companies have taken advantage of this and increased the price of insulin over the years. Insulin costs have increased so much that individuals have decided to ration their insulin per month.
Medicare insurance expert, Danielle Roberts, from the American Journal of Managed Care, explains that one vial of insulin can cost upwards of $350.
Insulin use varies by person or case. Some individuals need more than just one vial per month, which would only increase their monthly spending on medication that keeps them alive.
A cap on the monthly cost of insulin is necessary for insulin users. Two states already, Colorado and Illinois, have passed the insulin cap of $100 per month for patients.
Decreasing the cost of insulin should be an easy decision for New York State representatives to make, especially because diabetes affects a large portion of the population and diabetics are suffering due to these excessive costs.
New York State must follow this lead and turn this policy into law. Our nation cannot allow chronically ill individuals to choose between life or death due to the inability to afford necessary medications when there are drugs, like Narcan, that are free for all people.
As a social work intern and student, I have been able to conduct counseling sessions where I listen to the experiences and stories of numerous clients. One story that has struck me from my volunteer work is that of a 55-year-old male who I had met through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). He lives with Type 1 diabetes and has paid up to $750 a month for insulin in the past.
My client is a single father who is not able to work because of his Celiac Disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, neuropathy and extreme pain from a previous fall at a former job. As someone on Workers Compensation and Disability Insurance, he receives a Social Security Income (SSI), of around $1,200 a month. After purchasing his insulin, he is left with $450 to pay bills and support his family.
Because money is a constant concern for him, he no longer socializes the way he would like to. He said that his depression partly comes from not being able to afford social activities such as going to the movies, going out on dates or enjoying hobbies like carpentry. He has also suffered the consequences of late fees on credit cards and other services such as cell phone bills.
If the cost of insulin continues to rise, my client has said he will have no choice but to cease use. This decision, if chosen, would end his life.
These are the moments that make me realize that we, as social workers, need to do more and be the voice for those who cannot use their own, or have tried tirelessly to be heard. I could not believe that our state is not only failing this man but failing so many others like him who could not afford to live and purchase insulin.
This experience made me reflect on my own privileges, but also reflect on how this situation must be affecting his entire family. After hearing his story, I knew I had to keep up with the news about policies in the country related to diabetes and the insulin cap and use my voice to bring light and awareness to a topic that is not spoken about regularly by the media or individuals.
The insulin cap will help individuals financially, emotionally and socially by allowing them to thrive in other areas of their lives without the burden of insulin costs. The challenges that come with diabetes are one of the many daily difficulties individuals with this chronic illness face.
There are other expenses that need to be taken care of in a household such as grocery shopping, paying rent or a mortgage, paying bills along with entertainment and emergencies. The insulin cap will allow these individuals to live their lives without having to choose between medicine that keeps them alive or their basic necessities.