The Penalty of Not Being Able to Afford Care Is Too Expensive

Meagan Esler

| Mar 22, 2013

Diabetes is insanely expensive. I often wonder how much it has cost me over the 18 years I've been funding it. Sometimes I had enough money to purchase all my supplies, sometimes I didn't.  I felt like a loser every time I had to leave supplies at the pharmacy. You'd think I'd have gotten used to it at some point, but no, I cried every single time.  

I can't help but wonder what my bank account would look like if I had all that money back.  We're talking all the hospital emergency bills from when I was uninsured, all the doctor bills, prescriptions, co-pays, everything.  Even though there were times I grossly limited my use of test strips, I am certain if I had all that money back I could afford a lengthy tropical vacation that would make the Kardashians jealous.   

I'm lucky to have a great job and decent insurance, though it never seems to be enough with rising medical costs. Recently I was shocked to find out my doctor's office was threatening me with collection due to a $690 bill. It had been much higher but I'd been forwarding payments each month and when I brought up that fact, I was told, "It's not enough." I was sending payments of $50 to $100 most months, and occasionally $25 when money was tight. Needless to say it felt like a punch to the gut, like adding insult to injury.  

I used to say my biggest fear was losing my insurance. These days it might just be the bill that's coming that isn't covered by my insurance. That $690 bill wasn't the only bill I have with my doctor.  There is a newer one that also promises to be staggering. I puzzle over how many of my current bills are appearing to be higher than those from the years when I was without insurance.    

I know I'm not alone. Lately I'm hearing people say that more than ever they can't afford their medical supplies. A Facebook friend recently posted that there were months where she was so tight on money she couldn't afford to buy her beloved avocados, and then those months where she couldn't afford her test strips. Unfortunately, this month for her was one where she couldn't afford test strips.  

That's the scariest thing in the world to me. We need test strips, we need insulin, we need our supplies and medical care or the penalty could very possibly be death. My heart broke for her and all of us that could spare a bottle offered it up to her. We should not be penalized by a threat of death simply because of our financial standing, but it seems we often are.

I hope not to have medical emergencies, or simple medical necessities push me over the edge. I was very lucky I had enough saved to cover paying the $690 bill in full, but what if I hadn't?  How would I have afforded the supplies I needed from the pharmacy that month? I imagine how much better life would be if we could get our medical needs met without having to sacrifice our health or our bank accounts.  

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Posted by Anonymous on 25 March 2013

I so much agree. I had much better insurance before and now regret having to leave that job (my decision not theirs). I have heard a story of a woman with an insulin pump whose insurance has canceled her several times. She has been through 3 or 4 different companies. I am now getting a pump and it scares me. I am holding onto house but with new pump it might not be much longer. Thank God for the PPACA. I can now get insurance at the same price as a normal person. A conversation I had with a person recently about the affordable care act came down to this. Health care cost are sky high. The reason being people who don't get insurance while healthy then go to ER or Dr. and can't afford the bill. That bill is not just one person but 1.5 since the hospital has to cover 3 people for the price of one. That cost is pasted to the insurance company who then politely passes it to the insured. A vicious circle. If everyone is forced to get insured then each person pays their own bills. The hospital can lower the price in the ER and the insurance will lower the cost to us.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

I live in London, England. I've been a Type 1 diabetic for over 50 years. I get 153 test strips free every month. All my insulins are free, as is all my hospital and primary doctor care. I am given priority whenever I attend any Accident and Emergency hospital clinic.

I weep for diabetics in America.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

I agree with what was said, everything is going up and up, our government is taxing us to death, and I too have months I couldn't afford my supples.Its a shame things have come to this

Posted by Gabby530 on 26 March 2013

We are feeling the pain something fierce here as well with TWO type 1 diabetics in the house....our last two refills of a month's worth of insulin costed us $1100 out of pocket and I JUST refilled ONE of our scripts for test strips (3 month supply) to the tune of $1167 out of pocket...I have tried cutting down on testing to see if I could stretch out how long my strips would last and that idea landed me in 3 near-emergency overnight situations (blood sugars in the 30's)'s a very sad state that type 1 diabetics who didn't ask for this condition have to pay these exorbitant fees now just to stay healthy and alive...

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

I totally agree with you. Being a type1 diabetic for over forty five years medical expenses have always been my greatest concern. You loose your job and insurance is no longer affordable, doctors visits and supplies are rationed and you hope to survive somehow. What to do, just hope and pray for the best. You would think that organizations that are constantly asking for donations to find that cure for diabetes or whatever illness would be more able to help those people who are struggling, be able to get some type of affordable insurance to cover doctors visit and medication and supplies. The cures will eventually come so how about more emphasis on those that are struggling and trying to just cope with there illness and all its expenses.

Thank you

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

I am so blessed to live in Canada where we our medical is paid for by our govt healthcare. I recently had to be admitted into the hospital due to a very bad infection that wasn't healing and I won't have to pay a cent for the stay or the care.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

Thank you for this post. It is frightening to think of the long term costs and implications in not providing decent health care to all. If we don't pay for test strips now, we'll be paying for ER visits and dialysis (or something) later!

I have had type 1 diabetes for 37 years now, with excellent health. I no longer have health insurance, as the only insurance I could get in Arizona, being self-employed, was costing $1,000 per month, with a $3,000 deductible. I can no longer pay for that, and had been paying for supplies out of pocket even WITH that insurance, so I'm now waiting the 6 months until I can get onto the Pre-existing condition plan (Obamacare - yay!). I am grateful that there are now low-cost test strips that are accurate (Relion and other store brands), and that I need relatively little insulin, so can afford that!

Thanks again for writing about such an important topic to so many.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

I use a pump for my insulin infusion. I have Medicare A & B. Medicare B used to pay for insulin infused with a pump, as well as strips, infusion sets, and the pump. Now, insulin is not included on that list. I need 5 bottles of insulin a month (175 units per day average, with 75 units designated for food intake. The rest is basal rate (24 hours infusion.) I am not alone, and I know I have it easier than those who are not on Medicare, but at $160 per bottle from Walgreen's, I will have to deny myself supplies and food limitations.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

Of course, when you go on Medicare, doctors and other providers don't want to treat you or if they do, they charge you extra exceeding Medicare and any supplemental insurance.

And pity those who don't have long-term care insurance. Of course, once you have diabetes, it is impossible to get insurance. And forget assisted living facilities unless you have $1,000,000 or so put any.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 March 2013

In Canada where I live, in France where I was born, both countries having a Health Care suystem, diabetics needs are totally covered.100% of their expenses are covered, from cotton swabs to insulin, needles, strips etc. Not doing that would be the equivalent of refusing to help people in mortal danger, a crime punishable by law. Same is true of other health conditions where patients' lives are totally dependent on their medications.
Hard for Canadians, Brits, French, Germans, Italians and many others to understand the stubborn reticence of Americans to adopt the "Obamacare" program. I love Megan Esler's articles and feel sorry for the unacceptable situations she and other people have to go through when money is scarce.

Posted by bkennedy003 on 1 April 2013

Megan, this will become the norm for ALL patients with chronic illnesses. The "affordable" health care law, is anything but. Have you ever heard of a health insurance company loosing money? I haven't.
Typical government meddling has done EXACTLY opposite of what its intention was. I'm not even sure I will have employer subsidizes health care insurance in 2014. It's cheaper for my employer to pay the "fines" to the government, rather than paying the Heath care premium.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2013


I hear you! I appreciate your courage to come out with your story. My story is quite similar. It is so embarrassing having to beg insulin vials from my local clinic. I so wish some brave reporter or the US Justice Department would investigate what really happened with the tripling of insulin prices, and the lack of generic alternatives. Can you spell "antitrust?"

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