I Paid $25 for My Insulin, We Need More Awareness About Patient Assistance Programs
For a lot of people with type 2 diabetes, living with it can be more challenging than it should or needs to be – from wondering where to start after a new diagnosis to facing internalized stigmas about what it means to be a person with type 2 to finding a supportive community.
Leola Collins, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on Thanksgiving Day in 2008, has had enough life experience with diabetes to help others make the transition to it as smooth as possible. For others with type 2 diabetes, Leola was a member of the Michigan-based support group, A1C Champions, where she and others provided resources, support, and shared stories on various aspects of living with diabetes.
“At A1C Champions, we were people who kept our A1C under 7 percent and are doing well with diabetes,” said Leola. “With that program, we used our experiences to help others who felt lost by sharing our stories. We didn’t give medical advice, but, it was helpful to someone who sees someone who looks like you, has the same disease as you, and going through it with you.”
Though the support group ended in 2016 due to a lack of funding, Leola still found a way to make a positive impact in the diabetes community through the years by sharing her experience and continued to learn new ways to manage diabetes, particularly through devices like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM).
When it comes to insulin, she understands the stigmas associated with it but knows insulin being “bad” for type 2 diabetes self-management is a harmful misconception.
“I found an endocrinologist that gave me the amount of long-acting insulin I needed,” said Leola. “That dosage worked and I was starting to feel like myself again. There isn’t anyone who could convince me that it’s bad for me, especially since at the time of my diagnosis, I was on oral treatments that didn’t work well enough. Insulin was needed. It helps you survive.”
She also noticed other improvements to her quality of life after starting insulin therapy. She was able to focus on her weight loss journey, had more energy, and her dry skin improved. But, when her insulin regimen became more complex, such as taking it for meals, her doctor had her start wearing an insulin pump. Fortunately, she was able to try out Medtronic and Omnipod to learn which device was best for her.
Still, Leola knows a reason that some with diabetes have trouble caring for themselves is that important tools like insulin, other medication, and devices can be unaffordable, but says prescription copay savings programs can help. She used one in the fall of 2021 to get insulin when it became unaffordable for her, and was surprised this information isn’t more widely available, especially after she saw how much she only had to pay – $25.
“I run into people, a lot, who don’t take care of their diabetes because they can’t afford it,” said Leola. “These are people who don’t know that companies have savings cards that can lower some of the costs of their prescriptions to $25 as opposed to them paying hundreds. I don’t know why this isn’t more widely discussed by doctors, either. We deserve to know these programs exist. When people with diabetes can’t afford their medicine, they stop taking them which leads to bigger problems. Also, we’re in a time when a lot of people lost their jobs due to the pandemic. When I told a person about these programs, she was shocked she didn’t know about them.”
Along with companies and healthcare professionals promoting awareness of these programs, Leola believes that another key to getting people with diabetes to use patient assistance programs is for patients to learn how to have these conversations with their doctors.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Leola. “In this case, you don’t know what or who could help you until you ask. There are doctors who really want to help, but when you only have 5-10 minutes for an appointment, it can be easy to forget to have these discussions. Another tip is to check your local pharmacy or doctor’s office for prescription coupons, and you can ask the pharmacist questions about them. There are prescription cost-saving programs that are for insured people, too. It’s not just for individuals with low-income or no income.”
Need Insulin? Go to GetInsuling.org to fill out a form to learn which programs you’re eligible for to get insulin at low or no cost to you.