Province lowers support for diabetes blood-testing strips


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The provincial government is reducing funding for the test strips that diabetics use to monitor blood sugar levels.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/06/2017 (2050 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The provincial government is reducing funding for the test strips that diabetics use to monitor blood sugar levels.

As of June 15, the province will pay — through pharmacare and social assistance — for as many as 3,650 test strips per year, or on average 10 per day, for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes if they are taking insulin.

Before the change, they were allowed 4,000 per year.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mitch Beauchemin, 58, is a Type 1 diabetic and has been testing his blood sugar level since he was 19, using up to 12 test strips a day.

Diabetes Canada, formerly known as the Canadian Diabetes Association, said Wednesday the new policy represents the minimum recommended level of provincial support and reflects what other provinces offer.

This week, the Pallister government was battered in the media after it froze funding for a program for special-needs preschool children in order to save money.

In this case, Diabetes Canada said it doesn’t oppose the decision because more test strips can be prescribed — but only to a maximum of 100 per benefit year.

Regional director Andrea Kwasnicki said the organization is disappointed that the government failed to consult with diabetics before the decision was made.

She said they’re disappointed people will have to see a doctor or nurse practitioner if they need more test strips.

“It will cost the health system more just with the appointment to get the recommendation,” she said.

Savings should be spent on programs to educate diabetics on how to manage the disease, she said.

In a statement emailed to the Free Press, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen noted that Diabetes Canada “has developed clinical guidelines recommending blood glucose testing frequency based on the medication prescribed.”

“Manitoba is modifying coverage for blood glucose test strips to ensure benefits are aligned with best evidence and clinical guidelines so patient needs will continue to be met,” Goertzen said.

“Manitobans expect a system that improves their health and provides quality care while remaining cost-effective. The changes will also ensure coverage is medically appropriate and financially efficient.”

The government estimates there are from 5,000 to 7,000 pharmacare recipients who have Type 2 diabetes and who do not use insulin and don’t need as many test strips as they were allowed to get.

The changes are expected to save $1 million annually.

The government’s decision doesn’t sit well with Mitch Beauchemin.

The 58-year-old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 19. He tests his blood sugar seven to 12 times a day.

Beauchemin said when he’s healthy he uses seven test strips, but when he’s sick, which is increasingly often, he uses as many as 12.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Beauchemin tests his blood sugar level using a test strip and digital meter.

“It depends on my activity,” he said.

“If I’m stressed, I’ll test myself. If I’ve worked out, I’ll test. An hour after a meal and I feel low, I will test. And now that I use an insulin pump, they recommend testing yourself at 3 a.m., to make sure you don’t get low overnight.”

Beauchemin said he doesn’t understand why the province would cut funding for test strips — which cost $1 a piece — considering the ramifications of not testing blood regularly.

“The better control you have, the better it is for your health in the long run,” he said.

“Right now, I’m looking for kidney donors after 37 years of my blood sugar going up and down before I got the pump. We’re also at risk of blindness, heart disease and amputation… if I have to go into hospital, it will cost the government a lot more.”

Beauchemin said he would like to see the province use any savings to cover insulin pumps.

“They are covered for children, but not for adults — and they cost about $7,000,” he said.

“But they give you a steady flow of insulin instead of a sharp increase with a needle. If I’d had this pump 10 years ago, I’m 100 per cent sure I wouldn’t have kidney problems now.”

The changes also mean patients using an oral drug that has a higher risk of causing low blood sugar have coverage for 400 test strips per year.

Diabetics managing the disease with medication that has a lower risk of causing low blood sugar, or through diet and exercise, are allowed up to 200 test strips annually.


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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