Here’s What It’s Like When You Have Diabetes But Can’t Afford Insulin

Last month, HuffPost reported on a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that shows just how many working-age Americans are skipping doses of medication because of high prices.

“Prescription medications in the U.S. are more expensive — frequently a lot pricier than in other countries,” wrote HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn. “People without insurance can’t afford them, while even those with coverage frequently owe so much in out-of-pocket costs in the form of copays and deductibles, that they can’t pay for their drugs, either.”

In particular, insulin prices have soared in recent years, causing many people with diabetes to skip the necessary drug ― sometimes with deadly results.

I often have to wait and buy my medications on paydays.
Melissa Musgrove, HuffPost reader

We asked HuffPost readers to share their stories about rationing insulin and other diabetes drugs due to their high prices.

“Always in the background is the knowledge of how fast the lack of insulin can kill… death within possibly days and certainly weeks,” said Elizabeth Schaefer, a reader whose son has Type 1 diabetes. “It is an ongoing struggle.”

Her story was just one of dozens that paint a picture of the tough choices facing many people with diabetes. Some have been forced to limit their food options, weather potentially serious health risks and make do with drugs that are cheaper but less effective. 

Below are more first-person accounts from HuffPost readers (responses have been lightly edited for clarity):

As a type 2 diabetic for over twenty years, I have seen my insulin and other diabetes medications prices rise and rise. Even with my insurance the price of my insulin, medications, and related medical equipment, such as test strips (often a dollar per test strip) and needles, takes a big chunk of my family’s income so I take chances. I have skipped insulin and pills, reused needles, bought discount needles (btw, cheap needles are blunt as all get out and cause bruises) to make sure my family’s other expenses are covered.” — Regina Babcock

“I often have to wait and buy my medications on paydays. Which means I will go without for a few days at a time or try and ration it…. I’m a single woman with a kid in college and medicine is easily one of my biggest expenses.” — Melissa Musgrove 



For people with diabetes, the costs of everything from test strips to basic drugs can add up.

No earth-shattering story, just add me to the list of those that can’t afford their insulin. I’m a retired US Postal Employee under the Civil Service Retirement System.” — Maribeth Caldwell

“As a Type 1 diabetic for over 30 years, I have gone through several stretches where I would ration insulin or skip doses due to the expense. For over a year, I would limit my carbohydrate intake in order to reduce the amount of insulin I would have to take. My lunch would consist of a cup of yogurt, as anything more than that would require me to use my precious supply of expensive medication. A few years later, while working for a company that offered a flexible spending account, I liquidated the entire balance within a few months purchasing insulin. At another point, my significant other spent literally thousands of dollars buying my insulin for me.” — Brian Myszkowski

Always in the background is the knowledge of how fast the lack of insulin can kill.
Elizabeth Schaefer, HuffPost reader

“My son has had diabetes since he was 20, he is now 28 with no insurance. He works full time and still can’t afford insurance or his medication. He skips his insulin shots on a regular basis due to the cost and also does not use the correct insulin as prescribed by his doctor due to the cost. This causes him issues with weight control and his sugar levels are never kept low enough or high enough. He has been in and out of the hospital with pancreas issues as a result of this.” — Michelle, no last name given

Have you or someone you love skipped an insulin shot or been forced to ration your insulin because of the cost? Leave a comment below.