On social media sites, there is an abbreviation used to bring attention to information that is dated, but important. The term is ICYMI. Translation: in case you missed it.
Here’s a story that people should note, but might have been lost in the tragedies of recent massed shootings. This, too, is a tragedy, one many Americans face. Consider what happened to Josh Wilkerson, a 27-year-old from Virginia who recently became too old to be on his stepfather’s health insurance plan. The ability of young people to stay on a parent’s insurance until 26 is one of the more popular features of the Affordable Care Act.
Wilkerson, a $16.50-an-hour dog kennel supervisor, was engaged to be married. He also has Type 1 diabetes — he was born with it — and needed insulin to stay alive. Trouble was, the insulin his doctor prescribed cost $1,200 a month. He could not afford it, so switched to an over-the-counter brand that costs $25.
We’re not sure why insulin can be sold across the counter, considering the reality that controlling blood sugar in patients with diabetes is complicated and needs monitoring. In Type 1 diabetes, the body produces no insulin; while for Type 2 patients, the body generally becomes immune to insulin’s effects. Type I sufferers will have the condition a lifetime. However, some Type 2 diabetes patients can reverse their disease with lifestyle changes. Not all need insulin, while all Type I diabetes patients do.
Many of the some 29 million with the two types of diabetes are poor or simply can’t afford insurance that will cover the costs of lifesaving medicine. Desperate people who cannot afford the soaring cost of insulin are choosing alternatives, including the one Wilkerson took. His brand of insulin, ReliOn, is sold at Walmart.
According to the Washington Post, the over-the-counter brand is known as “human insulin” and sometimes can take as long as four hours to take effect. A more expensive prescription, or “analog insulin,” can regulate blood sugar levels in as little as 20 minutes. But its prices have more than tripled since 2002, causing doctors to recommend the cheaper variety for the many who cannot afford the cost.
For Wilkerson, who began using the alternative drug in the winter of 2018, the inability to pay proved fatal. In June, he had a series of strokes and ended up in a vegetative state, dying five days later. He left behind his fiancée, who also has Type I diabetes.
Congress is attempting to wrestle with the high cost of insulin, but so far has failed to pass legislation to either help people pay for it or bring costs down. Meanwhile, in Colorado, the state capped the price of insulin at $100 a month, starting next January. Across the nation, though, people are dying or becoming sicker because they cannot afford their prescriptions. In the United States of America, the richest, most powerful nation on the planet, people are dying because they cannot afford their prescriptions.
While politicians squabble over what constitutes socialism and Washington lawyers seek to end the ACA altogether — stripping patients of protections for pre-existing conditions and kicking young adults off their parents’ insurance — people are dying because they cannot afford their prescriptions.
Josh Wilkerson is one of those patients. ICYMI.