3 common challenges diabetes patients face

11.8.18

Over 30 million Americans battle diabetes. To treat the disease, patients need to be diligent about monitoring their blood sugar and reacting with the appropriate dosage of insulin to regulate glucose levels. While there is currently no cure, the Chronic Disease Coalition is joining others throughout the month of November in recognition of National Diabetes Month to raise awareness and educate the public on the everyday hurdles diabetes patients face. Read on to learn about three common challenges faced by diabetes patients.

1. Discrimination in schools

 Effectively managing your diabetes is difficult at any age, but especially when you are in elementary, middle or even high school. As a result, the Department of Education is required to provide equal educational opportunities for every student. For students with diabetes, this requires schools to create care plans for students that include guidelines for monitoring blood sugar, administering insulin and handling emergency situations. Unfortunately, these plans aren’t always developed and appropriate accommodations for students may not be made.

This experience is highlighted in a recent lawsuit filed by the American Diabetes Association against the New York City Department of Education. Joining the American Diabetes Association are three families of children who haven’t received appropriate diabetes care or necessary accommodations from the school.

“Diabetes care is routine but absolutely critical for a child to be safe at school,” Sarah Fech-Baughman, Director of Litigation at the American Diabetes Association said in a press release. “Excluding a child from class time or an academic enrichment opportunity, such as a field trip, because they have diabetes is harmful, stigmatizing and unlawful.”

2. Forced nonmedical switching

 According to a study conducted by the Doctor-Patient Rights Project, diabetes medication and supplies are excluded from prescription drug formularies more than any other treatment category. In recent years, the number diabetes-related medication or supplies excluded from coverage on a patient’s health plan has increased by nearly 80 percent.

Not surprisingly, patients are forced between choosing to switch to a cheaper medication or pay out-of-pocket for their current medication that their doctor prescribed. Many patients choose to continue using their prescribed medication and incur the cost that should have been covered by their insurer.

“Insurers that target diabetes-related medications and supplies for exclusions are being shortsighted,” Jeff Hitchcock president of Children with Diabetes explained in an article. “When they fully cover prescribed treatments, insurers permit parents to start their children on the most effective medications and to use them appropriately. As a result, they experience improved clinical outcomes and fewer lifetime medical costs.”

3. Stigma

Because diabetes is an invisible condition, people without the disease frequently make assumptions about how diabetes looks from the outside.

“People automatically assume that you haven’t taken care of yourself,” said Tracey Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association in the video below.

This stigma can negatively impact a patient’s social and emotional wellness, as they may receive comments that blame their eating habits for contributing to their condition. But, as Brown mentions, diabetes doesn’t discriminate, and it looks different for every patient.

While patients will continue to fight this stigma, it is important to remember that chronic disease doesn’t define the patient. “You can still be the best version of yourself. It’ is normal, it is my routine, it is my life – until we find a cure,” said Brown.