Crowdfunding Diabetes Care Cost Rising

Diabetes drug shortages caused by a massive wave of people prescribed semaglutide (Ozempic) for its off-label use as a weight-loss medication have recently shed a light on the high incidence of diabetes in North America – and its financial burden.  Beyond the cost of medication to control diabetes, there are many other expenses required to manage a chronic condition, and some patients are turning to crowdfunding through GoFundMe to help cover unexpected bills. 

According to a recent Fast Company article, a new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that soliciting donations from friends and strangers through GoFundMe has become increasingly common for diabetes patients.   Even patients with health insurance can find that buying healthy foods, specialized footwear or making home renovations to accommodate a new disability can become a great burden.  Trips to visit a specialist, or a hospital at a distance, can quickly become costly with the additional gas, parking, or hotel stays. 

The study, led by Caroline Sloan at Duke University School of Medicine, used data from 313 randomly selected GoFundMe campaigns between 2010 and 2020; the average request was $10,000 to help cover medical expenses not covered by insurance.  But because these costs are ongoing, this approach to managing the cost of diabetes is not a sustainable solution. 

Roughly 40 percent of American diabetes patients have difficulty paying their medical bills.  A recent study found that the average insulin-dependent patient with health insurance spends about $4,800 each year on medications, physician visits, supplies, hospitalizations, and lost wages.  This figure is roughly equal to 15 percent of the median U.S. per capita income. 

The study’s focus on the rise in crowdfunding to cover diabetes care highlights how important it is for doctors to understand their patients’ ability to cover their treatment and take into account the financial burden when prescribing medications or booking appointments.  In some cases, for example, a telehealth visit could save travel dollars while still providing regular health screening.