Government shutdown leads to insulin rationing


#1

The United States government is currently on day 24 of the longest shutdown in history, having started on December 22, 2018. Nine departments of government are currently shuttered, and 800,000 federal workers have either been furloughed (forced to stay at home) or are working without pay. For government workers living with Type 1 diabetes, the shutdown has proven to have potentially devastating consequences.

Although the workers will be paid when the shutdown ends, that is of little help for people with bills due now. Stories have emerged of workers unable to afford basic necessities like food, power, and critical medications. One such employee is Mallory Lorge of River Falls, Wisconsin. Lorge, who lives with Type 1 diabetes, has been forced to ration her remaining insulin as she can not afford the $300 copay.

The Department of the Interior employee has already ignored a dangerously high blood sugar stating, “I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up.” Lorge has cancelled all of her medical appointments, and told NBC News that she and her husband can probably afford another three to four weeks before they are broke. The couple has consolidated their loans, and already spent all of their savings and the money they received as wedding gifts. “It’s like being held hostage,” Lorge said. “I’ve been a federal employee for six years, and I love it. I don’t get paid much, but I love working for the American people. That the government has put us in this position is like a punch in the gut.”

This isn’t the first story to emerge about people with diabetes affected by the shutdown. Last week CNBC reported that a tax examiner for the IRS in Chicago has been unable to pick up his $200 insulin prescription. The government employee, referred to as Leo, went on to say that he has to save every penny, and will rely on his credit card if the shutdown persists. And these two workers aren’t alone. Thousands of GoFundMe pages have been created for government employees affected by the shutdown, many asking for money to cover medical expenses. As this shutdown continues, the number of people who cannot afford their medication is sure to grow.

For individuals with high out-of-pocket healthcare costs — like insulin — the timing of the shutdown couldn’t be worse. High deductible health plans reset deductibles on January 1, meaning many people are stuck paying list price for their monthly prescriptions at the pharmacy until their insurance plan’s deductible is met. For a month’s supply of insulin, this could range from $200 to upwards of $1000.

The high cost of insulin in the U.S. affects many non-government employees as well. A November 2018 study from Yale University found that 1 in 4 patients with diabetes at a clinic in the United States underused their prescribed insulin because of cost concerns.

Mounting pressure from patient advocates has led to some preliminary measures aimed at tackling high insulin costs in the US.

On Monday, January 14, The House Oversight Committee announced that they are investigating the actions of a dozen pharmaceutical companies. The panel is seeking detailed information about the increase in prescription drug prices for AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md) said in a statement that, “The goals of this investigation are to determine why drug companies are increasing prices so dramatically, how drug companies are using the proceeds, and what steps can be taken to reduce prescription drug prices.”

Last week, Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill) introduced the “Insulin Access For All Act”, which would eliminate the cost-sharing requirement for patients on Medicare and Medicaid so more people living with diabetes have access to this life-saving medication. In December, United States FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. released a statement detailing a handful of new guidances designed to increase competition and bring down prices across the insulin market. The changes are slated to take effect in 2020.

As the days tick by, the negative ramifications of government employees going without a paycheck will continue to grow. For people with Type 1 diabetes who need insulin to stay alive, this has dangerous and serious consequences.


#2

Regardless of political affiliation, I hope most people realize that forcing people to work for no pay is fundamentally un-American. Furthermore, allowing medical costs to be so high in this country, and expecting any and all individuals to “pay up front” is completely unsustainable for chronically, critically ill people (like us) when forced to work for no pay.

This shutdown is completely immoral, completely inexcusable, and incredibly counterproductive. Can we link those GoFundMe pages for federal employees struggling with medical costs here?


#3

Coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program continues for employees, even if they are not getting a paycheck. They still have insurance.

They will still need to pay their co-pay for medications, but that is the same whether they are working or not working. Same as food, they will still have to buy that also.


#4

Yes. Articles like this are political smears. Nobody is rationing insulin because of a government shutdown. If there is anyone who truly can’t afford insulin because of a shutdown, it’s available at Walmart for $25 without a prescription. If you can’t afford that, pm me and I’ll call ahead to your local Walmart and pre-pay it for you and you can pick it up.


#5

One of my best friends is off work due to the shutdown, and his medical, dental, and vision coverage are all still 100% in effect. These articles are intended to scare people.


#6

@Eddie2

That was really a good article. It answers a huge number of questions that I can certainly assume would be on the mind of anybody in this situation.

Nice info post !!!


#7

I spoke to an IRS agent, her insurance is still active, BUT she is not receiving a paycheck and it is running out of money. Her son has T1, and her deductible is pretty high, so this month she CAN’T pay for the insulin, strips, pump supplies, and cgm.

She is a single mother with 2 college kids and lives paycheck to paycheck. I’m sure there is a lot of people with similar situations.


#8

This is why I have a stash of extra supplies. Just in case I lose my job and am without a paycheck for weeks.

But regardless I feel bad for those who are going through this.


#9

The whole thing is crazy. People get laid off all the time. With or without diabetes. And we’re supposed to be extra alarmed when people get laid off temporarily just for pretend, get to keep their insurance, and get to go back to work and collect all their back pay? How about the people who are actually losing jobs and benefits for real who aren’t gonna get a big check for it after a few weeks?

If you have a chronic disease that requires medication it would be prudent to have more than a 3 week supply of it on hand, especially if you have a hard time affording it. Everyone encounters hard times financially. Again if all else fails and someone is actually being starved of insulin and is going to die, pm me and I’ll take care of it.


#10

If someone really, really needs insulin, I’m leaving Thursday morning for MI. I’ll be driving through WI. Can drop off supplies.


#11

You clearly haven’t spoken to anyone who is actually experiencing this hardship.


#12

Sure I have… I’ve worked with 6 different federal employees side by side over the past 2 weeks who are at work and not getting paid. Why would you make such an assumption?


#13

It just seemed like you lacked any empathy for anyone affected.


#14

Lack empathy? I just volunteered to buy insulin for total strangers. I guess that’s not the desired type of empathy…


#15

While berating them for not being more prepared.


#16

Umm, I said it would be prudent to keep more than a 2 week supply of insulin. Don’t you do that? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t…


#17

I think this quote clearly shows that you are not the least bit concerned about whether these people are experiencing hardships… unless they’re just about to die.


#18

Ok. You’re right. I am not the least bit concerned. As they are not the least bit concerned about my hardships. Yet none of them have ever offered to purchase my insulin if I am desperate.


#19

I have empathy too, but this article has some major problems. Off work for 6 weeks and doesn’t have the money for insulin. She’s been a federal employee for 6 years, has a husband who should have some kind of income, in 6 weeks consolidated their loans, spent all their savings and the money they got as wedding presents? I would have to say insulin would be highest on the list and then in next breath they say they have money for another 3-4 weeks.
Sorry, but this article causes aggravation not empathy.
Then the next guy? Works for IRS, good job, unable to pick up his $200 insulin and will rely on his credit card if shutdown persists? Hmmm, you must not want that insulin very much if you don’t use your credit card now to get it. Again, just an aggravating story.


#20

Exactly… that’s exactly what this is intended to be…