What would you do if you had to make the decision between paying your rent or paying for your medication? What if it was between groceries for your family, or for the insulin you need to survive? According to a published study by JAMA Internal Medicine, more Americans than you might think have to answer these questions; in fact, one in four Americans struggle to afford their insulin. Which isn’t surprising when you find out the average price for a bottle of insulin without insurance: $300. Keep in mind, this is for one bottle. Many patients take two to three vials per month, and those with Type 2 diabetes might take six or more bottles per month. On average, that’s anywhere from $600 to $1800 or more for a single month.
Recently, I forgot to refill a subscription for a medication I take. I called my psychiatrist and was informed I would not be able to get a refill for another week, because I missed a previous appointment. I absolutely panicked, knowing I would have extreme withdrawals in a matter of days that would include vomiting and fever. Those would be the worst of my symptoms; but what if the worst was death?
I was able to find another doctor who would prescribe me enough medication to get through until next week’s appointment, but the fear and the anxiety that clenched my heart will not soon be forgotten. I can only imagine how truly panicked I would feel if I thought not taking my medication would result in death. While this example is not comparable to those who cannot afford their insulin, it struck a chord in me when I considered the fear others must experience constantly.
This is why I would like to highlight an amazing organization that I recently researched for a midterm paper on insulin prices: Texas A&M’s Healthy South Texas.
Healthy South Texas is a pilot program from Healthy Texas that intends to “reduce the highest impact diseases and their consequences, including diabetes, asthma and infectious disease, throughout a 27-county region in South Texas,” according to their website. Part of this goal is their Medication Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to individuals who are uninsured, who have limited insurance, an extremely high co-pay, or if they have Medicare D and fall into the donut gap of coverage. This program helps with payment for any and all medications, including insulin.
All an applicant needs to enroll in the program is a prescribing doctor, a state issued photo ID or driver’s license, a social security card, and proof of income. Once they are enrolled, they can receive a 90-day to 120-day supply of medication, and they are enrolled for one year. Upon the year’s expiration, if the patient needs continual assistance, they are re-enrolled with the program. Healthy South Texas has helped over 20,000 residents through their Diabetes Control Program in only their first year; they have since helped thousands of more residents who struggle to afford their insulin.
The counties that are under the jurisdiction of Healthy South Texas can be found here. If you or someone you know struggles to afford the costly expense of insulin, call Healthy South Texas’s informational number (979-862-3932) to see if you can register in this program, or get a referral to another program in your area. You deserve treatment, and you deserve medication that you can afford!