Nova Scotia

American family sets sights on N.S. after daughter's Type 1 diabetes diagnosis

Amanda Reseburg's family of five is applying to move from their home in Janesville, Wis., to Nova Scotia — a year after her nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which requires an expensive life-saving drug.

Wisconsin family seeks affordable insulin, better health insurance coverage

Amanda Reseburg's family of five is applying to move from their home in Janesville, Wis., to Nova Scotia, a year after her nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. (little x little photography)

Amanda Reseburg had always admired Atlantic Canada from afar.

She dreamed of Nova Scotia's coastal views from her home in Janesville, Wis., and even planned a trip to visit the province for her 40th birthday this spring.

But a year after her nine-year-old daughter Molly was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she and her family are hoping to move to Nova Scotia in search of affordable insulin and better insurance coverage.

"It was always kind of in the back of my mind. We have friends that live in Canada and I've always had an interest in the Atlantic provinces," said Reseburg.

"But once our daughter was diagnosed, we saw firsthand the problems she's probably going to run into when she reaches adulthood."

Reseburg said her daughter takes six to 10 needles a day of both long-acting and short-acting insulin. She's also on a continuous glucose monitoring system, which monitors blood sugar 24 hours a day and must be changed every 10 days.

So far, Reseburg said her family has been lucky.

Her husband's job allows them to have "decent medical coverage," but given how closely insurance is tied to employment in the United States, Reseburg wonders what would happen if her husband lost his job — or when her daughter grows up.

"Once she reaches adulthood, she's not on our insurance anymore and she would need to find decent insurance to cover her needs, because she's going to have this for the rest of her life."

Molly, 9, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in April 2019. (Amanda Reseburg)

Two months ago, Reseburg and her husband retained a lawyer and submitted their immigration application through Canada's Self-employed Persons Program.

According to the immigration website, the application costs roughly $2,075 in fees. It asks about your employment and education history, age, languages and adaptability.

Reseburg has run her own business as a wedding photographer for 12 years. She said the process to apply through the self-employment stream takes roughly 22 months, but she expects delays from COVID-19 to mean it may take even longer.

"They want to know that once you land in Canada, you have a plan to contribute to the Canadian economy," she said.

"So we had to prove that we had landing funds, that we knew where we were going and what we were going to do when we got there."

'They decide what insulin they will allow us to have'

But she said the paperwork is worth it to know that, if the application is successful, her daughter's insulin will be covered and her family will not be subject to the whims of insurance companies.

A few months ago, she received notice that her insurance would be changing the kind of insulin her daughter used.

"We don't get any say in that whatsoever. They decide what insulin they will allow us to have," she said.

This was problematic because her daughter also has Turner syndrome, a chromosomal condition that alters development in women and girls. Reseburg said the injections her daughter takes for that illness can make insulin less effective.

They had no choice but to switch. She said the insurance company also decided to cover $75 less, meaning she now has to pay more out of pocket.

Reseburg said she and her husband have been open with all three of their daughters — who are 12, nine and four — about the potential move to Canada.

She said she's hopeful that moving up north will offer her children more opportunities as adults and be less tied to employment based on insurance coverage.

"I don't want to tell my kids, 'Go find a good office job,'" she said. "I want them to be able to do what they want to do, and not have to worry about insurance."

Affordable insulin

She said she's never needed to hop the border to buy insulin, but understands why people do it.

"It's medicine that people need to live. They can't not have it. If my daughter doesn't take her insulin, she's not going to live," Reseburg said.

She added it's frustrating to see that Canadians have figured out how to make prescription drugs affordable, but they have yet to do so in the U.S.

"I don't see America getting on board with that any time soon, so that's why we're looking to move."

Now, the family will wait for their application to be processed, which usually takes roughly 22 months — though Reseburg said they expect it could take longer because of COVID-19.

Reseburg also said she hopes to reschedule her 40th birthday trip to Nova Scotia, which was cancelled because of the pandemic.

"That was my dream trip," she said. "We'll get there eventually."

About the Author

Emma Davie

Reporter

Emma Davie is a reporter, web writer and videojournalist in Halifax. She loves listening to, and telling stories from people in the Maritimes. You can reach her at emma.davie@cbc.ca.

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