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Expanding Coverage of Insulin Pumps

In 2014 the Ministry of Health made an important decision to fund insulin pumps for British Columbians under the age of 25, with Type 1 diabetes. I recently wrote the Minister of Health, urging him to go farther and eliminate that age requirement in order to cover all British Columbians with the disease.

This is a policy that could greatly increase the quality of treatment for thousands of people. Insulin pumps reduce the likelihood of serious medical complications which can include kidney failure, blindness and amputation. These complications are not only devastating to individuals and their families, they are also incredibly expensive for our health care system. Funding insulin pumps is a cost effective policy that would increase accessibility of treatment and quality of life for thousands of British Columbians. I look forward to the minister’s response.

Below I reproduce the text of my letter and I will share the response when it is forthcoming.

Text of the Letter

January 29, 2017

Honourable Terry Lake
Minister of Health
PO Box 9050 Prov. Govt.
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2

Dear Minister Lake,

I’m writing to ask that you extend BC Pharmacare coverage of insulin pumps to all British Columbians with Type 1 diabetes.

This technology can be life altering for those who deal with diabetes. I’ve heard stories from a number of constituents, all of whom outlined just how significantly their quality of life improved due to the technology. They were not only afforded greater freedom and a peace of mind, they also attribute a number of important health benefits to the devices.

This belief is backed up by a compelling amount of scientific literature. Insulin pumps have a demonstrable correlation with greater metabolic control for people with Type 1 diabetes. This greater metabolic control lowers the chance of serious complication occurring, including blindness, amputation, heart disease and kidney failure. I recognize that the pump is not the appropriate treatment for everyone but it is an important tool to have available for patients and doctors as they work to manage the disease.

Despite the significant benefits which can be derived from the devices, the financial hurdle is simply too high for many. An insulin pump which typically lasts four to five years can cost an average $7000. This is simply too high a price for many to pay. I’ve heard stories of people forced to choose between obtaining the medical treatment they need to manage paying for food or rent.

I recognize the difficult decisions which need to be made in prioritizing drugs for the Pharmacare budget but this therapy has the potential to reduce long term health care costs. As stated earlier, the better insulin management afforded by pumps reduce the chance of associated complications. The loss of sight, of a limb, or of kidney function can have devastating effects on an individual and their family. They are also incredibly costly to our health care system. Studies have indicated that the introduction of an insulin pump program could mean net savings for the health care system, when the decrease in complications is taken into account.

Alberta, Ontario, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories have already made the decision to cover Insulin Pumps for all residents with Type 1 diabetes. In both provinces, government funding supplemented the coverage already provided by private medical insurance, a move which reduced the cost of the program.

Insulin pumps not only an effective tool for patients manage a very dangerous disease, they’re also a preventative and cost effective measure our health care system could implement. This is a forward thinking policy which could lead to better treatment of diabetes for thousands of British Columbians.

In 2014, your ministry made the decision to provide insulin pumps to residents who needed them and were under the age of 25. This was move which gave a great number of people the tools they needed to manage their disease. I urge you to eliminate the age requirement for coverage, and make these benefits accessible for British Columbians of all ages.


Andrew Weaver
MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon Head

One Comment

  1. Lynnie Murray-
    May 30, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Hello Minister Weaver,
    This is fantastic news. I did not realize that Nunavut, Yukon and NWT also had Insulin Pumps covered. I feel that if five of our provinces and territories are covered then we should absolutely endeavour to have them covered in BC.
    Thank you for your service.

    Lynnie Murray