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The Growing Need For Health Equity For People Living With Diabetes

Date Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

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The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently launched #HealthEquityNow, a national platform to ensure all 122 million Americans living with diabetes and prediabetes, which puts them at risk for developing diabetes, have access to health resources that are too often unavailable. 

"Quality, affordable health care should not be a privilege, but a right for all," said Tracey Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association. "It’s time to tear down the systemic barriers that separate us based on zip code, income level, education, color and gender, and it's time that we demand health equity now."

The ADA is calling on businesses, policymakers and other leaders to address systemic inequities, and has drafted a Health Equity Bill of Rights. It outlines ten fundamental rights, including the right to affordable medication, quality health insurance, and access to the technology and resources required to manage diabetes each day.

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“This issue continues to be a major concern for many of the people we care for,” says Samir Malkani, MD, who in addition to helping people manage their diabetes at UMass Memorial and Milford Regional Medical Center, is the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence Outreach Director for Affiliate and Member Hospitals

The average list price of insulin has reportedly increased 11 percent each year since 2001 according to multiple reports.

“The substantial increase in the retail cost of insulin is disturbing because of the lack of transparency on the part of insulin manufacturers in providing justification for the price increase, as there have been no substantial improvements in insulin formulation in the past 15 years,” added Dr. Malkani.

Cheryl Barry, RN, MS, CDCES, Manager of the Diabetes Education Program at the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence says, "It’s abhorrent that in the United States, people need to choose between taking their insulin or paying for other necessities and thus increasing their risk for the long-term complications of diabetes.” She added, “This is a start, but we still have a long way to go.”

Barry and her team of diabetes educators continue to hear people complain that insulin is too expensive. Many have admitted to sometimes skipping doses to make it last longer. “We hear so many people tell us they used to pay $20 or $30 and now their co-pays are in the hundreds,” she says. “They have to sometimes decide between paying for their necessary insulin or paying their rent… they end up going without insulin, which can have severe consequences down the road.”

Brown noted that the need to assert these rights has become even more stark during the coronavirus pandemic. "COVID-19 didn't create these health inequities," she said. "It confirmed what we knew. That in American health care, there are two classes of people, and one of them – those with lesser incomes, those of color and so many of those with prediabetes – are far more likely to end up with diabetes and equally as unlikely to have the access to the care they need to prevent and treat the disease." 

To learn more about this ADA initiative, visit diabetes.org/healthequitynow. The website includes a short video, the Health Equity Bill of Rights, and allows you to sign your name to a pre-written letter to your state’s governor.

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UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence Director Dr. David Harlan and American Diabetes Association CEO Tracey Brown on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building for the annual Call to Congress to advocate for federal funding to support diabetes research and programs, and access to adequate and affordable healthcare.

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