How a struggling economy affects diabetes care.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
October 2008 — The American economy is struggling - layoffs, foreclosures, bank failures, company failures, high gas prices, high food prices. The biggest hit for those of us who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes is medical costs, which keep on rising right along with gas and food.
So far, Greg and I have been lucky. Our employers have not been immune to layoffs. Greg's employer, a large corporation, seems to have an annual round of job cuts. My employer, a small company, has decreased workforce and workplace by two-thirds over the past year and a half. This all means more work, more stress, and more worrying about what would happen if Greg lost his excellent health benefits.
I'm feeling the impact of the downsizing my employer has done. There's more work for everyone and some of the perks (i.e. on-site massages) we once had seem a distant memory. It used to be easy to take a long walk at lunch or at least be ready to work out as soon as I got home in the evenings. Now I am lucky if I exercise twice a week. My blood sugar averages have significantly increased in the past month. Borderline hypertension is something I dealt with briefly years ago and now it appears to be making a comeback.
Greg continues to help with a couple of projects that he worked on years ago, only because the staff that had taken them over are now gone. Given that he also has to produce results for his current project, this has caused him stress as well. Disturbed sleep is a common occurrence for him these days.
If we had to take health insurance with my employer, we would increase our out-of-pocket expenses by several hundred dollars a year for specialist co-pays and prescription costs of insulin and test strips. All that depends on whether I would still have a job, too. Otherwise, we would need to pay for COBRA.
When I really think about it, however, I can't really complain all that much.
Metformin only costs four dollars a month at our local pharmacy, as does my treatment for hypothyroidism. I could reduce test strip consumption by only testing once or twice a day instead of three or four. Greg has always re-used syringes and lancets until the needles grow weak. Grocery bills are easy to reduce by taking expensive cuts of meat and expensive whole-grain snacks out of the cart. We can both get by on two endocrinologist visits a year.
We know there are many people out there managing one or more chronic conditions in a household who are struggling more than we would. We have enough in savings and investments to take a hit if we needed for a few months. (We've learned to use that as our safety net as life insurance can be hard to obtain and afford with diabetes.)
Perhaps those who manage chronic conditions such as diabetes along with household expenses are at an unfortunate advantage in times like these. We already know how to balance our health care expenses with all the other expenses like mortgage or rent, utilities, food, and transportation. But we're the ones who are more likely to struggle should we lose a job. And that's the truly unfortunate side of this down turned economy.
Read more of Rachel's columns.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...