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Alberta’s NDP are calling on the UCP to immediately halt its decision to cancel the Insulin Pump Therapy Program.

Last week the province announced those currently receiving benefits through the program will need to obtain coverage through a government-sponsored health benefit plan by Aug. 1 if they do not have employer-sponsored or private insurance coverage.

On Monday, the NDP’s health critic David Shepherd held a press conference with Albertans with diabetes, and parents of diabetic children, who worry they will not be able to afford insulin pumps that cost about $5,000 or more and must be replaced every five years.

“(The UCP) failed to provide any transition plan or any details on what new coverage would look like. The anxiety the UCP has caused for the diabetic community is unacceptable,” Shepherd said.

“The UCP have failed to recognize and consider the savings to the health system that the preventative benefits of an insulin pump offers. A visit to an emergency room can cost thousands. And thanks to the chaos the UCP have caused throughout our health care system, our ERs simply don’t have the capacity for even further demand.”

Jason Behm, whose six-year-old son Conor has type one diabetes, said before Conor got an insulin pump through the program, they struggled to find a daycare where Conor could safely get the support he needed.

“The fact that Conor has an insulin pump means he can safely go to school with minimal support and still be safe, and mom and dad can have a sense of comfort that he will stay in range and not require emergency care,” said Behm who believed the pump should be more accessible rather than “hidden behind pay walls.”

“This feels like an Americanized approach to diabetes management where the patient is left to fend for themselves if they do not have enough money for medical care,” Behm said.

Lisa Hart and her daughter, who were diagnosed with type one diabetes 17 years ago, said the changes will be unaffordable for many on the program.

“Many people living with type one diabetes already pay out of pocket for many other supplies. Premiums and copays may be too much to bear,” Hart said.

Lesley Thompson, who has organized with the diabetic community to create the Protect Insulin Pump Therapy Program group, said many people are affected by the program cut.

“This cut will cause everyone financial hardship and having to make the decision to stay on the pump and go into debt or go back to multiple daily injections causing a lower quality of life and putting one’s life at harm,” Thompson said.

Diabetes Canada said it has heard concerns from Albertans regarding the province’s change in coverage.

“We will continue to seek clarity on the details and transition from the existing Insulin Pump Therapy Program and advocate for a reduction in the administrative burden of accessible public coverage of diabetes medications, devices, and supplies,” said Diabetes Canada in a statement.

About 386,000 Albertans are living with diabetes and that number is expected to increase to more than 550,000 by 2031.
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