Today PM Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley have announced that if the Coalition Government is re-elected, $54 million will be put into funding CGMs (continuous glucose monitors) for people under 21.
This is fantastic news for kids and families, especially in regional areas when it’s harder to access services. CGMs give peace of mind especially overnight, as they monitor blood sugar levels 24/7. When paired with certain insulin pumps they can also stop low blood sugars from happening. CGMs mean less fingerpricks and increased safety. However at present it costs thousands of dollars per year to use them regularly. So I have never used a CGM outside of a research trial.
I’m really pleased that someone is getting funding for it, I really am.
But it’s also disappointing for a few reasons.
This announcement feels like the government is using our health as a pawn, a vote generator. We have been petitioning for years for CGMs to be subsidised with minimal response, usually saying that blood sugar meters do the job and CGMs are not deemed necessary. Yet now we have an election approaching, suddenly it’s a key issue that deserves funding. Does my health and safety depend on an election? My life is not some cheap vote-grabbing device that you can whip out the minute the standing of your government is put into question.
Then there’s the age issue. If this government is re-elected, or the Labor Government commit to the same plan, I will likely miss out on this subsidy by a matter of months. There’s a strange idea in government policy and departments that type 1 diabetes affects children more, or magically disappears when you reach a certain age. When I was 16 we had trouble receiving anything from Centrelink. My parents used to receive a Carers Allowance as I have a chronic illness. This was fantastic for covering my diabetes supplies and care. But the moment I turned 16 there was a lot of confusion. It was as though Centrelink thought my condition just stopped at that point, and it took my mother saying that yes, my pancreas still didn’t work, for them to sort it out. From there they supply the Ex-Carer’s Allowance directly to me, and then whilst I’m a student I receive a health care card.
But when I leave university that stops. My diabetes does not stop. My expenses do not stop. Suddenly everything becomes far more expensive the second I stop being a student. The way our funding works is geared toward the idea that Type 1 Diabetes is a child’s disease. Services are made for children with Type 1, and once you reach the young adult stage suddenly everything about diabetes is Type 2. There is a gaping hole in this system.
Children with type 1 deserve to sleep the night through, so do their parents. But so do adults with type 1. Yes, children often have rapidly changing levels, but so do adults. Yes, children can be hypo unaware. But to me, an adult is more likely to experience this because they’ve had it far longer. More time, more lows, less awareness.
One scenario is this: an adult, living alone, self-supported but with excess costs for healthcare services and devices. They would not have a parent to check their sugar at night. They wouldn’t have an alert dog because once again they’re often provided to the very young and families. They won’t have a CGM because who can afford all of these devices and services on a graduate salary? Add in rent, utilities, food, petrol, car payments, health insurance, and general living costs and it’s not such a promising outlook.
Doesn’t someone in this situation need a CGM just as much as a child?
I’m not saying this isn’t a good thing. It’s fantastic and I think parents and kids deserve that peace of mind of having a continuous monitor. I'm all for kids with T1 having their lives made as easy as possible. But I’m not so sure how they came up with this magical cut-off age. People around my age are struggling to find somewhere to live because of the ridiculous pricing. If you want to create a generation of independent, confident adults then you need to support them. Otherwise you’re left with a generation that can’t leave their parent’s home because they simply can’t afford it along with everything else.
Oh wait that’s right. All you need is a job to buy a house, and T1 goes away when you hit 21. Right?
Read more about this announcement here: http://blog.jdrf.org.au/2016/05/15/govt-funding-for-cgm-to-transform-lives-of-kids-with-type-1-diabetes/