Alberta not stopping Insulin Pump Therapy Program on Aug. 1: Copping

Alberta will not be stopping its Insulin Pump Therapy Program on Aug. 1, Health Minister Jason Copping told reporters on Thursday.

Copping made the announcement as he entered the provincial legislature. The move comes after Diabetes Canada sent a letter to Copping, requesting a meeting to discuss the previously announced changes.

“Diabetes Canada is extremely concerned about the negative impact this decision will have on the health of Albertans enrolled in the IPTP and the additional costs they will be forced to incur,” reads the letter, penned by Russell Williams, a senior vice-president at Diabetes Canada.  

“Albertans living with type 1 diabetes not only live with difficult health issues every day, but also bear a significant financial burden. We know that added costs adversely affect the ability of some to manage their disease optimally, which impacts quality of life and risks their short- and long-term health.”

The group says it has heard from Albertans who will be unable to pay the premium and co-pay the new policy will bring in.

“This will leave them with no other choice but to resume multiple daily injections of insulin and effectively compromise their ability to manage their diabetes. In some cases, it may force Albertans to make difficult choices between paying for needed diabetes drugs, devices, and supplies, or paying for necessities like rent or food,” said Williams.

“Additionally, we have heard from Albertans living with type 1 diabetes that their private plans do not routinely cover insulin pumps, or their plans are capped at an annual maximum, which further increases out-of-pocket costs for diabetes management. This may also result in the unintended consequences of increasing medical interventions in the public health system.”

According to a 2018 report from the Canadian Federation of United Nurses, an estimated 420 working-aged Canadians with diabetes die each year because they don’t have adequate access to their medications.

Health-care advocacy group Friends of Medicare has also called on the province to reverse changes made to Alberta’s IPTP.

Pumps cost about $7,000 and need to be replaced every five years. That’s in addition to other supplies which can run about $900 a month.

The previous annoucement meant anyone who doesn’t qualify for low-income status and is without private or employer insurance would have to buy coverage through Blue Cross starting in August.

Copping had said the changes could save the province as much as $9 million per year.

Copping also earlier confirmed Albertans enrolled in low-income, government-sponsored drug programs would continue to receive pumps and supplies at no cost.

Roughly 25,000 Albertans have Type 1 diabetes.

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