Americans with Diabetes Struggle with Medical Costs During Pandemic

July 30, 2020

Unemployment rates compounded with high medical costs plague the diabetes community during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has created significant financial challenges for individuals in the United States, with many experiencing unemployment and high medical costs. 

New data from a survey conducted by dQ&A with the American Diabetes Association revealed high unemployment and worsening health outcomes as a result of the pandemic among the diabetes community. Individuals with diabetes already face medical costs that are nearly 2.5 times higher than those without.

The survey results are based on a national online survey of 5000 individuals with diabetes, between June 26, 2020 and July 1, 2020.

During the pandemic, individuals with diabetes have been disproportionately affected by financial hardship. In June, the unemployment rate among individuals with diabetes was higher than the national rate at 18% versus 12%, according to the survey data. Furthermore, 33% of those with diabetes who were working before COVID-19 have lost some or all income, which is higher than the general population rate at 29%. Low-income and self-employed individuals have been hit especially hard, according to the survey.

Related: The Impact of COVID-19 on Patients With Diabetes

Moreover, individuals are finding it harder to pay for their diabetes care. According to the survey, 24% of those with diabetes, including those with Medicare insurance, reported having to use savings, loans, or money from their stimulus check to pay for diabetes care in the past 3 months. The findings also suggested that individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are having more difficulties paying for their care than those who have their diabetes managed. 

Additionally, the pandemic has led Americans to ration diabetes supplies in order to save money. According to the survey, 25% of those with diabetes reported self-rationing supplies to cut down on the cost of diabetes care. An estimated 650,000 patients are skipping insulin injections or taking less insulin than prescribed, and 3 million are skipping blood glucose tests.

Despite lockdowns across the country to protect communities, many are unable to work from home, leaving these individuals at increased risk. Approximately 60% of employed individuals with diabetes who are going into work are in essential industries; 22% are in health care.

Related: Addressing Diabetes Management Disparities in Minority Children

“We have a population of 34 million people with diabetes who face deadly consequences if they contract COVID-19,” Richard Wood, founder of dQ&A, said in a statement. “They are facing financial hardship, rationing their diabetes care to make ends meet, and being exposed to extra risk in the workplace. Keeping them healthy should be our number 1 goal. From a humanitarian standpoint, and to prevent our health care systems becoming overwhelmed. It’s clearly the right thing to do.”

References

1. American Diabetes Association, dQ&A. Diabetes and COVID-19: New Data Quantifies Extraordinary Challenges Faced by Americans with Diabetes During Pandemic. Accessed July 29, 2020. Published July 27, 2020. https://www.diabetes.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/7.29.2020_dQA-ADA%20Data%20Release.pdf

2. New Data Highlights Severe Health and Economic Impact of Pandemic on Millions Living with Diabetes. News Release. American Diabetes Association; July 29 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020. https://www.diabetes.org/newsroom/press-releases/2020/new-data-highlights-severe-health-and-economic-impact-of-pandemic-on-millions-living-with-diabetes