Thursday , February 25 2021

To save the money from his parents, this diabetic teenager reduced his insulin

The veteran of high school had an idea: he would reduce his insulin by about a third.

Dillon, who has type 1 diabetes, should keep his blood sugar levels between 130 and 150. After he started rationing insulin, his levels increased to 300.

He knew he was dangerously tall, and deep in his mind he was worried that he could get into a diabetic coma. "I was not thinking straight, but my parents work so hard to give me what I need, and I do not want to put any more financial stress on them," said Dillon, now 18.

From 2012 to 2016, the cost of insulin for people with type 1 diabetes almost doubled from $ 2,864 per year to $ 5,705, according to a study this month from the Health Care Cost Institute, a non-profit research institute.
Dillon Hooley reduced his insulin to reduce the financial difficulties of his parents, Jason and Mindie.

The cost of Dillon's insulin was much higher. He was insured last year through his father's work at a steel mill in Utah. When Dillon began rationing his insulin, the mill had just switched to an insurance plan with a high deductible, which meant his parents would have to pay $ 5,000 out of their own pocket before the insurance went into effect.

Under this new insurance, the Hooleys had to pay $ 800 a month for Dillon's insulin, instead of the $ 60 a month paid under their old plan.

Worried about his family's financial difficulties, Dillon's father Jason Hooley was at work and did not realize that a 400-pound steel beam was about to fall on his middle finger. He lost half his finger and could only do light work on the mill. With reduced hours, he earned $ 300 less per week.

That's when Dillon secretly started lowering his insulin. His parents found out when he went to a regular medical appointment and the doctor was shocked by his high blood sugar levels.

Dillon's father then changed jobs twice to get better health insurance. Now the family pays $ 160 a month for their insulin, which is better than $ 800 a month, but it's still a financial struggle for the family of five. Dillon returned to taking the full doses of insulin under the watchful eye of his mother.

Mindie Hooley cries when she thinks about what her son did to help his parents.

"He's such an unselfish person," she said. "My heart just broke, because you want to do everything to protect him, but instead he was protecting us."

Promises of the legislators

Some people with diabetes have not survived the rise in the price of insulin.

In 2017, Antavia Worsham, 22, of Cincinatti, died when she could not buy insulin.

His mother, Antroinette Worsham, testified Tuesday at the Capitol for the House Supervision and Reform Committee. A Senate committee also held a hearing on Tuesday about rising drug prices.

"This is unacceptable and I specifically want to get to the bottom of the rising price of insulin," Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told the audience.

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The pharmaceutical industry says that patients with insurance, such as Hooleys, should not have to pay the full price, as insulin manufacturers give deep discounts to insurance companies. "These savings are often not shared with patients whose direct costs continue to rise," said Holly Campell, a spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

An insurance industry spokesman, however, said that this is not true. "Discount savings go directly to customers," said Cathryn Donaldson, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans.

In December 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland asked the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether insulin manufacturers had conspired with drug prices.

In October, the Minnesota Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit against insulin makers alleging illegal pricing practices. A lawsuit filed by diabetes patients in Massachusetts accusing insulin manufacturers of setting prices is pending in a federal court.

The future of Dillon

While pharmaceutical and insurance companies are pointing fingers at each other, Hooleys are still struggling to pay $ 160 a month for Dillon's insulin, along with other supplies, such as test strips.

Paying for his insulin made it impossible for Dillon's parents to save enough to buy him a glucose monitor that fires an alarm if his blood sugar gets too low while he sleeps.

They know he needs one. Last month, his mother checked him while he slept and saw that he did not look right. She woke him up and gave him some honey, but he was so confused by his low blood sugar that instead of eating it, he spread the honey all over his body.

An ambulance took him to the emergency room, where he was stabilized and released.

After graduating from high school last May, Dillon wanted to go to school to become a nurse or a respiratory therapist. Instead, he got a job at the factory where his father works to help pay for his insulin and save for school.

He analyzes his two and a half months of insulin rationing and knows he made the wrong choice – but it was a choice of love.

"My parents do a lot for me and it was so hard to see them struggling financially," he said. "I felt helpless because I could not contribute."

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