Beginning June 1, the province will fund insulin pumps and supplies to help the thousands of Albertans living with Type 1 diabetes.
Health Minister Fred Horne made the announcement on Thursday, saying pumps and basic diabetic supplies will be covered through the new Insulin Pump Therapy program.
“Our program in Alberta will be among the most generous in Canada,” Horne said.
“It will have no age restrictions and will fully cover the cost for pumps and all supplies minus any costs covered by any insurance or government benefit programs.”
Alberta is the last province in Canada to fund insulin pumps, but the first in the country to offer the service with no age restrictions.
For those living with Type 1 diabetes, the pumps can make the difference in a better quality of life.
The portable machines are an alternative to multiple daily insulin injections, but are expensive, costing about $7,000 a pump.
As well, each year, supplies can also cost diabetic Albertans more than $6,000.
The insulin pump program is welcome news for Lisa and Megan Hart, who have been anticipating its arrival in Alberta for years.
“We knew we’d be relying on the province to help us out,” Lisa said.
Both Lisa and her daughter Megan live with Type 1 diabetes. Two years ago, Lisa paid $7,000 for her machine.
Megan used to have a pump, but when it ran out of warranty, she went back to injections. She still wants a new pump, which will now be covered by the province.
“You don’t have to worry about calculating things, it does it for you. You can adjust insulin down to very small amounts, it’s really tight control,” Megan said.
“It comes down to quality of life for a lot of people,” said Lisa. “It does mean fewer complications down the road.”
Brent Whitford started a Facebook page last year called ‘The Insulin Pump Promise’ as a way to put pressure on the province to fund the costly pumps.
“I’d say it’s a good day,” he said.
“I was pretty surprised that they actually followed through.”
Whitford has a doctor’s appointment on June 3 and plans to apply to the program on that same day.
There will be a process to determine who is eligible for the pump. Albertans will be assessed by diabetes health professionals like a registered dietitian and a nurse.
They must also meet criteria such as:
- Be a resident of Alberta, eligible for coverage under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.
- Be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and be under the care of a physician or nurse practitioner for the condition.
- Meet the clinical criteria established by Alberta Health Services for the IPT Program.
- Follow steps outlined in the IPT Program for new or existing IPT users.
“The people best suited are those who need very tight control and who generally have unpredictable types of lifestyles,” said Dr. Richard Lewanczuk with Alberta Health Services.
“We’re targeting the people who really would get the most benefit right off the bat.”
The IPT program will also cover pump supplies for up to five years for people already using a pump.
Pumps typically last about five years, so existing users will need to be assessed and meet eligibility and clinical criteria if they wish to receive a new pump and ongoing coverage for supplies through the program by the time their current pump is five years old.
Lisa and Megan are already booking their appointment to get the approval process underway.
“I think we’re pretty lucky to get a program like this,” Lisa said.
“We have a lot of stress in our lives with diabetes as it is so to have that financial burden relieved is good.”
The province first announced it would provide coverage for insulin pumps during the 2013 provincial budget in March. At the time, the local diabetes community applauded the decision.
The province’s 2013 budget committed $5 million for the first year of the new program, that will cover about 400 pumps.
About 13,000 Albertans live with Type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes in Alberta is expected to rise from 245,000 people in 2012 to 544,000 people by 2032.
The number of Albertans living with Type 1 diabetes is expected to rise to 24,400 by 2032.
With files from Carmen Leibel