I’ve never been afraid of my birthday. In fact, I’ve looked forward to it every single year because of all the fun things that distinguish the occasion. I’m lucky to be able to say that each third of May of my life has been filled with celebration, gratitude, and cake – what’s not to like about that?
But this year is different for me. I’m turning 26, which means I’ll no longer be eligible for dependent coverage under my parents’ health plan. I’ll need to enroll in my employer’s plan and figure things out from there.
This is terrifying to me. Why?
I’ve heard the stories.
Alec Raeshawn Smith’s story sticks out to me the most. He researched his insurance options and when he realized that the out-of-pocket costs for insulin were exorbitantly high, he decided to forgo insurance because it seemed more manageable to him.
He passed away just one month after going off his mother’s health insurance plan.
His family believes he was rationing insulin in order to survive until he could afford to buy some more.
There’s nothing about Alec’s story that isn’t tragic. It’s especially sad and frightening to someone who is about to begin navigating the confusing, expensive, and ruthless world of health insurance.
I’m hoping that I never get to a point where I need to pursue the dangerous “solution” of rationing insulin. But I’m also hoping that the biggies of insulin manufacturing – Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi – wake up and realize that they’re doing more harm than good. In 1996, just one year before I was diagnosed with diabetes, one vial of Humalog insulin (which I’ve used and continue to use since diagnosis) cost $21. Fast-forward 20 years, and Humalog costs skyrocketed to twelve times the cost at $255 per vial. Why? What could possibly justify this? How could anyone say that it is right for someone with diabetes who needs insulin to survive, and who didn’t ask for diabetes or do something to cause it, to pay that much on a regular basis to stay alive?
One thing is for sure: Insulin prices CANNOT stay as high as they are. There’s simply no reason for it, other than shameless, disgraceful greed.
And that is the simple truth of why I’m afraid to turn 26 this year.