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New insulin legislation is great, but not nearly enough

Diabetes is not a death sentence like some diseases; however, without proper care it can be. I applaud Gov. Tim Walz and Rep. Melissa Hortman for their work to support “Alec’s Bill” to provide affordable insulin to Minnesotans. Legislators need to get onboard with holding pharmaceutical and insurance companies accountable for lowering the cost of insulin, diabetes supplies and access to the kinds of insulin and monitors that work for the individual patient.

This legislation is a step in the right direction, but we also need to address the day-to-day battles people with Type 1 diabetes have getting their insulin and blood glucose monitors paid for by insurance companies and medical assistance. I know because my daughter, now 32, has had type 1 diabetes since age 12.

Diabetes is a scary disease that is hard to control no matter how attentive you are. Blood sugars spike dangerously high and low. High blood sugar leads to long-term problems, such as heart and cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, neuropathy, blindness and early death. Low blood sugar can lead to immediate death.

Fighting blood sugar highs and lows is hard enough without having to fight your insurance carrier to cover medical supplies. For a diabetic, regulating blood sugars is not an exact science. My daughter exercises daily, eats well and continually checks her blood glucose levels. She used to poke her fingers 10 or sometimes more a day if she was high or low. Now, she wears a sensor that continually reads her sugar levels and has improved her results dramatically. Her doctors also have found new brands of insulin that have reduced her highs and lows and kept her more stable.

So, when an insurance company or medical assistance provider tells your loved one they will not pay for the number of test strips, sensors and monitors that reduce their highs and lows, or the brand of insulins that work for them — it makes a mother want to cry, scream and fight. Would they prefer my daughter get kidney disease and pay for dialysis? How about heart disease and the costs associated with that? Or, maybe they are hoping for a short lifespan, so they do not have to cover her supplies anymore?

Come on Health Partners and the State of Minnesota medical assistance programs, stand behind your promises. If you really “believe in the power of good” (Health Partners) and want to “strengthen accountability” by “focusing on measurable outcomes affecting the well being of people” (Department of Human Services), then stand behind the slogans on your websites and do good for people with type 1 diabetes. And, come on Minnesota legislators, do the right thing and hold insurance and pharmaceutical companies accountable!

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