Mom Katie Schieffer recently posted a heartbreaking video to TikTok that went viral for shedding a light on the reality many parents of children diagnosed with diabetes know all too well: Costs associated with managing the disease are unaffordable.
Breaking down in tears in the video, Schieffer explains that her 10-year-old son Dylan was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but she couldn't afford to pay the sky-high costs of medication to maintain the disease—plus a whopping $1,000 bill for a blood sugar monitor not covered by insurance.
"I've worked for like 17 years," Schieffer says in the video. "I work all the time. I've been paying medical bills on my son for nine years, since he was born." This time, she explained, she was hit with a $1,000 bill at the pharmacy while going to pick up her son's insulin—that she later explained was for a blood sugar monitor—that she simply couldn't afford. "I now have to go in and tell my 9-year-old son I couldn't pay for it."
Unfortunately Schieffer's situation is nothing new: Americans with diabetes spend 2.3 times more money on health care than Americans without diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, "people with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16,752 per year, of which about $9,601 is attributed to diabetes."
And while the cost to develop insulin, the medication some diabetes patients will need forever to manage their blood sugar, is mere dollars, companies are charging an arm and a leg for it—and some insurance companies only cover certain brands. That means moms like Schieffer can potentially expect to shell out hundreds with each regular trip to the pharmacy depending on their insurance coverage.
"I work a full-time job," Schieffer continued through tears. "My husband works a full-time job. I work third shift. I go to school during the day. How are you guys making it? Am I the only one struggling? How are you guys doing it?"
Users immediately poured in with overwhelming support and advice for the mom, plus contributions to her Venmo (@Katherine-Schieffer) and PayPal (@KatherineSchieffer) accounts to help out. Even Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted that "No mother should have to go through this. A vial of insulin costs about $5 to make. Yet people with diabetes are dying because drug companies charge as much as $540 per vial in the U.S."
The reality? One in four diabetes patients can't afford the high cost of insulin and won't be able to fill their prescriptions. Luckily some of Schieffer's stress was taken away by the kindness of strangers and Dylan is doing well with his diagnosis, but what happens to the other Americans whose cries for help don't go viral?
Access to quality medical care and medication should be universal, but since it's so reliant on insurance companies, the American Diabetes Association offers some health insurance aid and information—including financial assistance programs—to help make the process a little easier.
Managing diabetes shouldn't be a life or death decision. That's why, if you or your family really need it, there are also several emergency resources for accessing insulin, including contacting your doctor for insulin samples to hold you over, heading to the ER, and taking advantage of insulin savings programs offered by Lilly Cares, Novo's Cornerstones 4 Care, and Sanofi's Patient Assistance Connection.
"There are so many people who are going without medications and supplies," Schieffer told the Daily Dot. "Here I was thinking I must be doing it wrong but so many people have reached out [talking] about how their loved ones have died watering down their insulin or simply going without."
Remember: There is help if you're struggling.