Alberta’s health minister has suspended a controversial plan to cancel insulin pump supports for Albertans with diabetes.
During question period in the Legislature on Thursday, Health Minister Jason Copping said that changes to the program have been paused and there will be a series of town halls to consult with people using the program.
He said there were a lot of questions about the changes that have not been answered.
“We didn’t do enough. I apologize for that,” said Copping about the confusion caused by the changes.
“We’re going to make sure no one is going to be left behind. The intent behind this was to be able to expand access and we’re going to make sure that we live up to the intent.”
Last week the province announced those receiving benefits through the insulin pump program would need to obtain coverage through a government-sponsored health benefit plan by Aug. 1 if they did not have employer-sponsored or private insurance coverage.
NDP health critic David Shepherd said despite the suspension of the changes, Albertans will still be understandably wary.
“This government clearly did not consult as they plowed ahead with this plan that would seriously impact the lives of diabetics,” said Shepherd who held a press conference with Albertans who feared that they would not be able to afford insulin pumps without the program.
“This government tried to move fast and they got caught when Albertans got furious.”
Diabetes Canada was also opposed to the program changes and wrote a letter to Copping.
“We have heard from Albertans who will be unable to pay the premium and co-pay imposed by the new policy. This will leave them with no other choice but to resume multiple daily injections of insulin and effectively compromise their ability to manage their diabetes,” the letter said.
“In some cases, it may force Albertans to make difficult choices between paying for needed diabetes drugs, devices, and supplies, or paying for necessities like rent or food.”
Diabetes Canada said they have also heard from Albertans living with type 1 diabetes whose private insurance plans do not routinely cover insulin pumps, or their plans are capped at an annual maximum, which further increases out-of-pocket costs for diabetes management.
“While having access to more insulin pump choices is an important part of individual diabetes management, we are opposed to the government’s current plan to impose cost-saving measures on the backs of those currently enrolled in the Insulin Pump Therapy Program,” the letter said.
Copping said Diabetes Canada will be included in upcoming discussions.