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The High Price of Insulin Is Literally Killing People

Diabetics stretching their doses should be scared of the GOP’s health plan.

by Micaela Marini Higgs
May 9 2017, 7:30pm

Photo: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / Stringer / Getty

Shane Patrick Boyle died on March 18th, 2017, from Type I Diabetes. Not from late-in-life complications from the disease, or from some unexpected situation—Boyle died because he was $50 short of reaching his $750 GoFundMe goal to pay for a month's supply of insulin, the drug necessary to keep diabetics alive. After presumably stretching the meds he had as long as they could possibly go, he developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a fatal complication that results from the body being unable to move glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it's needed.

Boyle had recently relocated from Houston, Texas, to Mena, Arkansas, so he could be with his ailing mother Judith, who died a week before Shane did. By crossing state lines, he lost his prescription benefits. The cause of his death, really, was complications from waiting for his new healthcare status to be approved.

When you're on an ACA plan without an out-of-state network, you can only use their insurance for emergency or urgent care, not prescriptions, says Obianuju Helen Okoye, a public health physician and healthcare consultant in St. Louis, Missouri. Even when people think their plan has out-of-state coverage, that isn't always the case, since multi-state plans "don't necessarily have network providers or cover services in multiple states," according to healthcare.gov. In both of these scenarios, patients pay for prescriptions like insulin out of pocket.

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