4 in 5 Americans with diabetes have gone into debt to pay for their insulin, new survey finds

Amid rising inflation, Americans are feeling the pressure of higher prices on everything from gasoline to groceries. But when inflation collides with the already rising cost of drugs such as insulin, the impact can be severe and the stakes are high.

According to a new study, published earlier this month by CharityRx, 79% of American adults with diabetes or who care for someone who say paying for insulin has created financial hardship.

Four out of five people surveyed said they incurred credit card debt to cover these costs, with the average credit card debt reaching $9,000.

The survey revealed that many people with diabetes face potentially unpleasant or difficult trade-offs due to the cost of insulin.

Of those surveyed who have struggled financially due to the cost of insulin, 83% said they were afraid of not being able to afford living expenses. About half said they reduced their spending on clothes (55%) or food (50%) to be able to afford insulin. Almost a third (29%) said they had to adjust their rent or mortgage expenses.

Another 63% said they felt pressured to sell goods and half said they put themselves in risky situations to get money for insulin. About a third of respondents (32%) said they had to sell prescriptions or illicit drugs to get the money they needed to pay for insulin.

Perhaps even more concerning are the strategies survey respondents said they used to stretch their insulin. For example, 62% of survey respondents said they skipped and/or adjusted their insulin dose to save money.

Taking less than the recommended amount of insulin can have negative consequences.

Of survey respondents who said they rationed their insulin, 54% said they couldn’t do their daily activities, 44% said they couldn’t work, and 37% said they couldn’t go. at school. A third said they had become ill as a result of their insulin rationing and 38% ended up in hospital for a day or more.

These hospitalizations are expensive.

In 2018, the American Diabetes Association estimated that one in four health care dollars in the United States was spent on diabetes, which equates to $327 billion between lost productivity and direct medical costs. Hospitalizations accounted for 30% of direct medical expenditure for diagnosed diabetes, or more than $70 billion.

These figures may underestimate the true total financial impact of diabetes. According to the CDC, out of 37 million Americans with diabetes, 8 million would go undiagnosed.

On a per person basis, analysis from the American Diabetes Association suggested that people diagnosed with diabetes had nearly $10,000 in medical expenses attributed to their condition. Total medical costs for people with diabetes were more than twice as high as for people without diabetes.

In line with the latest survey results, data from the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker revealed that nearly a quarter (22%) of non-elderly adults with diabetes report not taking their medications due to cost, approximately double the rate for adults who do not. have diabetes.

Relief could be on the way for people with diabetes.

In March 2022, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill – the Affordable Insulin Now Act – that would cap consumer out-of-pocket costs for insulin. People with private health insurance, including Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, would pay no more than $35 a month for insulin. According to CharityRx, the average person currently spends $400 per month on insulin; the new legislation would result in an average saving of 91%.

Survey respondents are more than ready for it. Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents with private insurance said they were satisfied with the Affordable Insulin Now Act. More than three-quarters said their quality of life would improve (76%) and their stress and anxiety would decrease (79%) if the legislation were passed.

Now, the fate of badly needed financial assistance for Americans with diabetes is in the hands of the US Senate. The bill, tabled in the Senate in February 2022, is still under negotiation.