Alberta to continue funding insulin pumps after public pushback

·2 min read
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping says the government will continue to fund insulin pumps for people with Type 1 diabetes.  (Government of Alberta  - image credit)
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping says the government will continue to fund insulin pumps for people with Type 1 diabetes. (Government of Alberta - image credit)

Albertans with Type 1 diabetes will continue to have their insulin pumps and supplies funded by a provincial program.

Health Minister Jason Copping announced Thursday that the government will no longer go ahead with its plan to shift the costs of the devices onto users' employer benefit plans or Alberta Blue Cross.

Copping said the province listened to users and stakeholders who said the changes to the Insulin Pump Therapy Program could make insulin pumps unaffordable for many users.

"By looking only at this one narrow program as opposed to the whole pathway and not taking in consideration not just the cost of providing supports, but the savings associated with supplying the supports, we keep people out of hospital," Copping said.

"We didn't look at it from that point of view."

Copping said the plan will start offering newer models of insulin pumps in early September. The government has negotiated with manufacturers to provide the pumps and supplies.

The announcement ends several months of anxiety for the roughly 4,000 Albertans who relied on the program.

In early May, Copping announced the changes, which were to take effect Aug. 1. The province said the switch would save $9 million.

A loud and public outcry from pump users, their families and advocacy groups forced Copping to put the plan on pause 10 days later to allow for more consultation.

Lesley Thompson, one of the founders of the Pump4Life advocacy group, which made calls and sent hundreds of emails  to MLAs, said she is happy that Copping walked back the changes.

"It's unfortunate that we had to do all this advocating on behalf of ourselves because they failed to consult properly beforehand," Thompson said.

"But at least they listened after we advocated and they've done the right thing."

Copping is forming a working group this fall to come up with a comprehensive plan for managing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. He said the group will have a year to come up with recommendations.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said people with diabetes, physicians and advocacy groups should sit on the working group.

"The government chose to rush ahead with a very ideological plan, very shortsighted, without having listened, and we saw the incredible potential damage that could have done," he said.

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