Diabetic fighting for Manitoba to drop age restriction on insulin pump coverage
Published Friday, January 8, 2016 9:12AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 8, 2016 9:23AM EST
A Manitoba woman with Type 1 diabetes is demanding to know why her province refuses to help pay for her insulin pump now that she’s an adult.
Laura Marois has depended on an insulin pump for much of life to keep her blood sugar levels in a healthy range. The pump clips onto her belt buckle all day and injects her with insulin under her skin throughout the day.
Marois says the pump is so much better than relying on needles to deliver insulin and gives her much better quality of life.
"You have so much more freedom. You can eat whatever as long as you know how much carbohydrates are in it,” she told CTV Winnipeg.
While insulin pumps are small, they come with a big price tag. The average pump costs between $6,000 and $7,000. Manitoba covers the cost of the pumps for kids 17 and under, but once diabetics turn 18, they are expected to foot the bill themselves.
That’s something the 28-year-old Marois wants to see change.
"It’s not like we grow out of it, right? If you have been covered before you're 18, well now you're used to it. And now you have to pay $7,000 every four to five years," she said.
The Canadian Diabetes Association agrees with Marois. It says there is “significant evidence” that insulin pumps offer more medical benefits than multiple daily injections of insulin. It says the costs of the pumps are “strongly offset” by savings from reduced complications that can occur when diabetics have trouble managing their insulin manually.
"This is a very important advocacy ask that we're pushing government to adopt. In the end, it prevents certainly serious complications as well as a health care burden,” says the Canadian Diabetes Association’s Kelly Lambkin.
The group has been lobbying Manitoba and several other provinces for years to remove the age restrictions on pump coverage.
Alberta, Ontario and the three territories cover 100 per cent of the cost of the pumps for all Type 1 diabetics and allow them to get a new pump every five years. British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador pay for them until users reach age 25. In all other provinces, coverage ends at age 18.
Manitoba’s Minister of Health Sharon Blady says the province introduced the age restriction in 2012 based on expert advice that children would benefit most from the pumps.
She says stories like Marois' raise important questions about coverage. She says she'll continue working with organizations like the Canadian Diabetes Association to strengthen care in the province.
"I just want to keep a dialogue going, and this raises a really interesting point about how it is we ensure that folks get the care they want and need in the long term,” Blady said.
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Katherine Dow