N.S. woman pushes province to cover glucose monitors for diabetics

·3 min read
Mary Kate Blois says she no longer has to constantly think about her diabetes. She says her continuous glucose monitor has provided her with peace of mind, especially when she's sleeping. (CBC - image credit)
Mary Kate Blois says she no longer has to constantly think about her diabetes. She says her continuous glucose monitor has provided her with peace of mind, especially when she's sleeping. (CBC - image credit)

A Nova Scotia woman with Type 1 diabetes says the province would save money if it helped pay for monitors that track blood sugar levels.

Mary Kate Blois of Upper Rawdon, N.S., said the cost of continuous glucose monitors keep them out of reach for many diabetics.

She's envious that P.E.I. recently announced it would fund some continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

Instead of manually testing blood through finger pricks, CGMs test blood sugar levels every few minutes and send readings to devices such as cellphones or insulin pumps.

Blois has used one for about two years, and pairs it with her insulin pump. If her levels are off, the pump automatically administers the correct dosage of insulin.

She said it has been life-changing.

"I can just live my life and not worry so much about the diabetes, which I think is huge," she said.

"If I'm sleeping, I worry, 'Is my blood sugar going to go crazy on me?' Because that has happened before. I just find the CGM and the pump together just makes me less worried."

The peace of mind comes at a cost. CGMs can run between $3,000 and $6,000 a year.

Blois said she's fortunate she's had some private insurance coverage in the past, and her family has supported her as well.

"It's a very expensive disease and a lot of Type 1 diabetics can't afford to use this technology," she said.

Coverage available in P.E.I.

P.E.I. became the first Atlantic province to cover some CGMs. Its program offers the devices at a reduced rate, depending on a person's household income and their private insurance coverage.

P.E.I. estimates 1,300 people will be able to take advantage of the program.

Colin Mehmel
Colin Mehmel

Blois said that should lay the groundwork for Nova Scotia to follow suit. She said parents of diabetic children in particular could benefit.

"It takes so much worry away from parents with young kids who have it, who are running around and they don't know what their blood sugar is," said Blois.

She also believes that if the provinces funds CGMs, it will save money for the health-care system in the long run.

"I think a lot of diabetics would have better control and wouldn't have so many long-term side effects," said Blois.

Her push for coverage is mirrored by Diabetes Canada. The national advocacy group said CGMs can be "life saving for people who experience low glucose at night and risk not waking up in the morning."

Diabetes Canada said the monitors help adults and children with Type 1 diabetes who have not achieved their blood sugar targets or have difficulty with hypoglycemia. It's calling on all provinces to fund monitors for those groups in particular.

N.S. reviewing coverage

In a statement, Nova Scotia's Health Department said it's reviewing whether CGMs should be covered.

It said they're still relatively new devices, and they need to be reviewed for both their clinical benefit and cost to the health-care system.

But Blois believes if the province spoke directly to those who already use them, the government would quickly learn that it's worth the investment.

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