As far as outrage goes, having to pay seventeen thousand, five hundred and thirty eight ISK for a few packs of test strips and insulin pens ranks pretty high on my list. As a type one diabetic, I am unable to produce insulin, a hormone essential to the body’s metabolic process. I have to monitor my glucose levels with single use test strips, and regularly inject myself with insulin, without which I am likely to go into a coma or have a violent seizure.
Under a newly passed law meant to save the State money and make the healthcare system more egalitarian, everyone now pays a greater proportion for his or her prescriptions until their cost of care reaches 69,415 ISK per year, at which point the State takes over payments.
It sounds good in theory, so what’s the problem? Noticeably missing from the new law governing public insurance is the clause that made medication free for most chronically ill. Specifically, the old law stated that it was illegal to take payment for repeat prescriptions vital to patients’ continued survival.
This means that suddenly that same goody bag of drugs essential to my basic survival went from approximately 25,000 ISK to 50,000 ISK per year. And because under no circumstances will my diabetic costs reach the pay ceiling of the new bill, the new law ensures that my costs of living will double.
To add insult to injury, any equipment essential to my care that needs to be replaced is no longer covered. If I lose my glucose monitor when it’s out of warranty, that’s 8,000 ISK out of pocket, regardless of whether I’ve reached the cap or not.
Thankfully I am able to pay for my prescription, as my mother taught me to have a rainy day fund for bat-shit crazy government decisions. However, not everyone is in that same position. For families struggling to make ends meet, this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And in a so-called welfare state, why should those who get dealt an unfortunate hand in life be further penalized financially?
With the high upfront cost, some of the chronically ill are put into the impossible position of having to decide how much they are willing to pay for proper medical care. When patients can’t afford the right treatment, the state runs the risk of exponentially increasing its costs through more hospital admissions. And can you really ask a diabetic to dilute their level of care when it is signing them up for a long list of harmful side effects including nerve damage, blindness and impotence?
Would you ask someone with schizophrenia to only take his medication every other day? An epileptic to forgo treatment and instead avoid stressful situations and flashing lights? An asthmatic person to stop using an inhaler and refrain from physical activity? No, because that would be senseless and barbaric.
As I see it, there are two solutions available to new Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson. One, he recalls the bill in its entirety, or two, he reinserts the clause ensuring that the chronically ill get their care for free while those who do benefit from the new bill are not left hanging.
Ultimately this is a question of whether or not we want to care properly for our illnesses. And this is a question the new minister of health will have to answer.
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