health

If you have Type 2 diabetes, your life has just become more expensive.

Whatever way you look at it, diabetes is an expensive disease to have. Specific diets, testing equipment, specialist appointments, needles; it is an endless cycle of treatment, education, management and products.

But, for those living with Type 2 diabetes, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

As of July 1, patients have to pay 50-times more for the box of blood-testing strips; with cuts to healthcare funding driving the price up from $1.20 to $60 for a box of 100 strips.

Bear in mind, most people living with Type 2 diabetes use these strips anywhere between four and six times a day, more so if they’re pregnant, ill, travelling, changing medications, exercising heavily, or menstruating.

It’s a change that’s set to affect a massive number of people, with almost a million Aussies suffering from Type 2 diabetes – the most common form of the disease.

Most Type 2 sufferers are not insulin dependant, but need to regularly check their blood’s glucose levels. This process involves pricking their finger to draw blood with a special lancet, and placing a small tab on the strip to get an immediate blood glucose reading.

Fair to say that now these test strips are costing 60 cents a go, many will be rethinking how often they can afford to test their blood glucose levels.

Diabetes Type 2 sufferers are now looking at paying 50 times more than before for testing strips.

I suppose I wouldn't have noticed this news so keenly if my own boyfriend hadn't been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just two weeks ago.

A whirlwind of emergency room visits, specialists, needles, and 200 page manuals on living with diabetes; the diagnosis was a major shock to everyone. He is super healthy - a professional sailor - and has no family history of the disease. Unlike Type 2, Type 1 diabetes is not lifestyle related: it's random.

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Or, as so many nurses and doctors have called it in the last two weeks, 'bad luck'.

But for those living with diabetes of any kind, the term 'bad luck' is especially unfair. It is a lifelong commitment, every minute of every day, to staying healthy, and, quite frankly, staying alive. Nothing can pass through your lips without thinking first: should I test my blood glucose levels? Do I need my shot of insulin? Where can I go somewhere private to do so? Have I got my logbook to keep track of my levels?

As a diabetic, the list of equipment and services you need is huge.

To name but a few...

  • Blood sugar (glucose) test strips
  • Blood sugar testing monitors
  • Insulin
  • Lancet devices and lancets
  • Glucose control solutions
  • Therapeutic shoes or inserts
  • Endocrinologist appointments
  • Optometrist appointments
  • Diabetes coach/support group appointments
  • Dietician appointments

Thankfully, many of these are covered by Medicare.

In fact, it was only last week that my partner and I were saying how surprised we were at the amazing support services on offer: he was sent home with everything he needed, including needles, testing equipment and food guides.

It was this support that really took the edge off the diagnosis. (I can only imagine how much worse it would have been should we have been hundreds of dollars out of pocket on top of everything else...)

Everything you need to know about Type 2 Diabetes. (Post continues after video)

This support is soon to be denied to people with Type 2 diabetes. These are people who are not necessarily insulin dependent, but are managing their diabetes through testing alone.

The fund cuts must surely make no sense, particularly when you consider the odd reasoning behind them:

"In removing the subsidy, the government followed the recommendation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee which found in a review that there was little evidence that blood glucose test strips improved glucose control, quality of life or long-term complications." (Sydney Morning Herald)

Er, what?

Diabetic support groups have compared their explanation as to using a thermometer to cure a fever.

The strips, they explained, should not be expected to cure the diabetic symptoms. Rather, they are crucial tool to manage and contain the disease.

As someone who now lives with a diabetic, I can testify first hand how important the strips are. It's often the difference between feeling completely overwhelmed by the disease, and feeling like you have some kind of control. It's the reassurance sufferers so often need to feel 'normal'. And that is more important than anything.

There is no doubt we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and I have seen first hand how incredible our public health and Medicare system can be.

But this really seems like a dud choice, Mr Turnbull. What gives?

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