TUESDAY, June 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Out-of-pocket costs for Americans with type 1 diabetes average $2,500 a year, a new study says.
But 8% of patients have more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs, possibly due to having high-deductible health insurance plans or significant medical needs, researchers found.
And insulin accounted for only 18% of total out-of-pocket spending. The rest of it included cost of supplies such as insulin pumps, syringes and continuous glucose monitors.
"Insulin is the difference between life and death for patients with type 1 diabetes, and efforts to make it more affordable are critical," said study lead author Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
"However, our study shows that even if insulin were free, families would still have substantial out-of-pocket costs for other health care. Policymakers should improve the affordability of all care for type 1 diabetes," Chua said in a university news release.
The study is based on an analysis of 2018 data from more than 65,000 type 1 diabetes patients, ages 1-64, with private employer-sponsored insurance coverage. It did not include patients with Medicare or Medicaid or those without insurance.
Families of children with type 1 diabetes spent the most on diabetes-related supplies. Their average annual out-of-pocket costs reach $823, compared to $445 for adult patients. Four in five children used insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors or both, compared with just over half of adults.
"These technologies can improve quality of life and improve diabetes control for all patients, but can be especially important to the families of children with type 1 diabetes," Chua said.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 1.6 million Americans have type 1 diabetes.
The findings are timely in light of recent efforts to cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin, according to Chua.
The caps "are important first steps. But policymakers also must look at the bigger picture and ensure that they are reducing the financial burden of health care for diabetes patients more broadly," he said.
The study was published June 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.