Province to pay for insulin pumps next year

Province aims to provide funding by late spring to pay for insulin pumps for diabetic patients who can't afford them.

30,000 diabetes patients in Alberta, pumps make disease easier to manage

The provincial government says it aims to provide funding to help pay for insulin pumps in Alberta by next spring -- a move that many dealing with the disease say can’t come too soon.

MLA David Dorward says Albertans who are eligible for the funding will have the full costs of the pumps covered. (CBC News)

"I give myself needles everyday just to do things that [other teens] do," said Robert Bradley, 14, who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes nearly eight years ago.

Bradley, one of around 30,00 Albertans with diabetes, checks his blood sugar every few hours and injects himself with insulin to control it.

His routine could be made easier by an insulin pump: a device worn by a person with Type 1 diabetes that monitors their blood sugar levels and can automatically provide insulin if it gets too high.

"[It would] mean a lot more freedom," he said.

Insulin pumps can be expensive - anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000.

For years, some have been calling for the province to help provide money to pay for the pumps.

At a conference for families with diabetes Saturday afternoon, Edmonton-Goldbar MLA David Dorward said that the provincial government will cover the costs of the pumps for those who otherwise can’t afford them.

"They will first need to exhaust all other funding sources they have with the government. Any other programs that are available and then this will top up that," he said.

Joel Tideamann says his life had improved, and he is healthier, since getting an insulin pump. (CBC News)

Dorward says the government is still drawing up the criteria for which patients will eligible for the funding. He says those who do qualify will have the costs of the pump fully covered.

The initial cost of the funding is expected to be around $10 million. Dorward says the project could save millions in long-term health care costs.

Joel Tideamann, 27, was diagnosed with Type 1 when he was 15 and received an insulin pump shortly after. He says Alberta has lagged behind other provinces when it comes to paying for insulin  pumps.

"Just the fact that they’ve come out and they’ve said that we are going to get this coverage, that’s a huge first step," said Joel Tideamann, 27, who was diagnosed with Type 1 when he was 15.

Tideamann says the pump has made his diabetes much easier to manage, making him healthier. He’s hoping that other diabetics in Alberta will soon be able to see the benefits as well.

"It gives you flexibility … I can eat what I want, when I want, of course still trying to live a healthy lifestyle. I can be more active," he said.

"It puts some amount of normalcy into your life."