Skip to main content

A Peek At Our Monthly Insulin Costs


Before my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I was generally aware of the overblown price of insulin but admittedly hadn't paid much attention to the details of this particular issue. Now that it's become personal, that has, of course, changed.

According to the JDRF, insulin can cost upwards of $300 per vial and $1000 per month, which is bananas considering that a) people with Type 1 diabetes literally depend on insulin for their survival and b) back in 1923, the inventors of insulin sold their patent for just $1 because they believed everyone who needs it should have access to this lifesaving drug. 

Keep in mind that insulin is not optional when you have T1D, an autoimmune disease that as far as we know is unpreventable. Before insulin's invention, people diagnosed with T1D lived for only months, maybe a year at most. You can't lifehack your way out of this chronic illness and insulin is a must.

Nowadays, drug companies make big bucks off insulin. Are there programs out there to help reduce insulin costs? Yes. But not everyone has the time, energy, and resources to figure it out (because like so many things in the world of healthcare, eligibility and access to these programs are complicated). A simpler solution would be to put people, not profit, first and make critical medications free or affordable for all.

Crazy, I know. I'm such a socialist, what with wanting humans to be able to live. UGH.

Anyway, now that we ourselves will be purchasing prescription drugs on a regular basis, I thought I'd share our insulin costs both with and without insurance. We are lucky in that we can afford these medications, thanks to insurance, a decent income, and a health savings account that we draw from directly, thereby leaving our regular accounts untouched.

Note that my son takes two different types of insulin: a long-acting version that he injects once a day to maintain a certain blood glucose baseline over a 24-hour period, and a rapid-acting version that he takes before meals to level out the blood glucose spikes associated with the carbohydrates he's consuming. Both types come in a handy "pen" - they really do look like ink pens! - instead of a vial + syringe. (While in the hospital we learned how to give insulin with a vial and syringe, but the pen is SOOOOO much easier to use because you don't have to transfer the insulin -- you just inject directly from the pen and there's way less fumbling around.)

Both the rapid- and long-acting forms of insulin are absolutely necessary for his diabetes management. 

Long-acting insulin: Each pen contains 3 ml of insulin. On average, we will purchase 1-2 long-acting pens per month. 

  • Without insurance: $110/pen
  • With insurance: $93/pen
  • Per month with insurance: $93-$186

Rapid-acting insulin: Each pen contains 3 ml of insulin. On average, we will purchase 4 rapid-acting pens per month.
  • Without insurance: $68/pen
  • With insurance: $45/pen
  • Per month with insurance: $180

As you can see, if we didn't have insurance, we'd be paying $382/month, or $4584/year, for insulin alone (that doesn't include accouterments like needles and the glucose test strips, which run for $1/strip!)

With insurance, we'll pay about $273/month, maybe a little more depending on how long the long-acting insulin lasts. Being an American, I saw this number and thought, I guess that's not bad? But when two of my Canadian friends saw it, they said, "That's nuts."

Keep in mind that even with insurance, costs vary depending on the specific capitalistic entities (i.e., pharmaceutical and insurance companies) involved.

Again, we're lucky. We can afford it. But many people can't, because thousands of dollars per year is a lot, especially in the context of rising housing, grocery, and healthcare prices. It's no wonder that some folks try to ration their insulin, which can lead to very, very bad outcomes.

Nobody should have to ration or skip their medications. Ever.

If you take insulin, how much does it cost? Have you found strategies to lower the cost without compromising your health?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Okay, Fine, I'm Back

Why? I miss blogging. I miss talking/ranting about money and personal finance. So I've fired up a new Blogger account, this time with uber-ugly formatting circa 2005!  (A stipulation of me returning to blogging is that I don't have to make the blog look nice. Sorry. I did try to pick the best theme that Blogger has to offer, but we're not working with a whole lot of options here.) And why launch a reboot rather than pick up where I left off on the original $76K Project?  For one thing, all of my old links are broken and I'm too lazy to fix them. For another, the original blog focused on debt reduction. We've* moved beyond that. Although we still have a sizable student loan (~$30K or thereabouts), most of our fiscal attention has turned to saving, investing (we have quite a bit of catching up to do in terms of our retirement accounts), giving, and spending on the things/experiences we value. That said, I do plan to move some of the more useful and/or popular $76K Pro

Well! So That Was April.

Happy spring! Here in the $76K household, April turned out to be a rather eventful month: 1. Our teenager ended up in the ICU and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  File this situation under "Things We Would Have Never Predicted," especially given that he was rarely ill up until now. In fact, it had been so long since we'd seen his doctor that the man had retired in the meantime and we had no idea until the ER team asked for the name of his primary care physician. 2. As a result, we've been learning and trying new things. Since he was released from the hospital, we've been learning as much as we can about T1D and working with his doctors to get his blood sugar into a healthy range. This has involved frequent blood glucose checks (his fingers have become pin cushions, basically), insulin injections, and some dietary modifications. It's a lot of responsibility for a 15-year-old who's also in the middle of final exams, but he's handled it amazingly wel

Thanksgiving Chili, Video Games, and Housing Decisions (November 22-28)

I've returned to blogging because I miss writing, particularly about personal finance. But I've realized that I don't want to structure it by topic the way I did when I was writing at The $76K Project. Somehow, that feels like too much work.  Instead, I'm going to try going with a weekly journal format. More informal! Less pressure! No real research necessary! I plan to blog as lazily as possible. So here's the rundown for Thanksgiving week: Work My partner worked on Monday and Tuesday; I worked Monday through Wednesday. I spent the longest short week ever answering customer questions about a Black Friday sale and counting down the hours to the holiday weekend.  I'm supposed to dive into my new role next week, although I get the impression that I'll be juggling elements of both jobs for another month or two. I'm nervous about the new gig and will miss my friendly, supportive teammates. However, I'm so burnt out on customer service that I'm willin