I have been closely watching how our US DOC friends are responding to the situation with United Healthcare insurance  limiting the choice of insulin pumps to Medtronic devices only. They have effectively removed the ability for the person with diabetes to select the pump that best works for their diabetes management (at least without a flight through – what  I imagine would be – a terribly arduous appeals process).

My knowledge of the US health system is rudimentary, but I do frequently read about how treatment choices are dictated by health insurers. This is absolutely shocking to me – the idea that my health insurer gets a say in what insulin I pump into my body, which strips I use to check my BGL or the device I use to administer insulin is terrifying.

While I am appalled at the insurer for their complete and utter lack of concern for the person living with diabetes, I am not really surprised. I have never felt that an insurer is on the side of the insured.

But I am very concerned at how Medtronic has behaved here, because despite any rhetoric, this is not the best outcome for, or in the best interest of, the person living with diabetes. For a company that has often shown they are genuinely interested in listening to the consumer, this flies in the face of any consumer-centric attitude and reeks of nothing more than greed.

The commentary from US DOC folks has been swift, consistent and damning, and I continue to read and learn with much interest as they eloquently and passionately plead the case for choice. I am, as I often am, inspired and motivated by the way the community comes together to fight the good fight.

But I am dismayed that there is a need for so much fighting. Living with diabetes is hard enough without having to battle red tape, bureaucracy and corporate hacks who are so out of touch with what living with a chronic condition is about.

And I also watch with fear, because I know that as much as we have freedom of choice in Australia (for now), we shouldn’t take it for granted. We know our insurers are always looking for ways to cut costs, increase profits and raise premiums.

We have already seen some insurers here take measures to make it harder to claim for a pump. There are stories of insurers insisting a higher level of cover for insulin pump rebates, instead of the basic hospital cover that was once the norm; longer qualifying periods have been introduced before a claim for a pump can be made; the number of years between upgrades are sneakily being increased in policies.

Whatever the change, it is clear the outcome for people with diabetes is that we are being screwed. We shouldn’t be too smug here in Australia as we watch from afar, because I fear it is just a matter of time before these sorts of measures are introduced here.

Here are some responses from the US DOC:

Kerri from Six Until Me (also. happy 11th blogaversary!)

Bennet from Your Diabetes May Vary

Kelly from Diabetesaliciousness

Round up from Diabetes Mine and this Storey

Kelly and Adam at Diatribe

Marina from The Betes Organization

Melissa for ASweetLife

Rick Phillips at Radiabetes

And finally, keep an eye on DPAC for update