COVID-19 Taking Financial Toll on People in US With Diabetes

Miriam E. Tucker

July 31, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a particularly severe financial toll on people with diabetes, new research from the US suggests.

Results from a national online survey of 5000 people with diabetes conducted between June 26 and July 1, 2020 were posted July 29 on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) website.

The survey, conducted by the diabetes research company dQ&A in association with the ADA, revealed that Americans with diabetes are experiencing extreme financial pressures, leading to medication and supply rationing.

A high proportion of respondents had either lost income or are working in jobs that place them at risk for catching the novel coronavirus.

"These new numbers show the urgency needed to adopt measures to protect and assist the millions of people with diabetes who are suffering through this pandemic," Tracey D. Brown, chief executive officer of the ADA, said in a statement.

She called for states to extend healthcare coverage to people who have lost their jobs, for the eradication of insulin copays during the pandemic, and for increased COVID-19 testing capacity in high-risk communities.

"If these actions aren't taken immediately, we will continue to see devastating impacts and outcomes for millions of vulnerable Americans," Brown stressed.

COVID-19 Has Worsened Financial Pressures for People With Diabetes

In the survey, 24% of respondents reported having used savings, loans, or stimulus check money to pay for diabetes care in the past 3 months. Among those who have lost income, half are using savings or stimulus money.

A quarter of respondents said they have been self-rationing supplies to cut costs.

Extrapolating to the entire US population with diabetes, dQ&A estimates that roughly 650,000 are skipping insulin doses or taking less than prescribed, and 3 million are skipping blood glucose tests.

In June, the unemployment rate for people with diabetes was 18%, higher than the national rate of 12%.

Also higher is the proportion of those working prior to the pandemic who have since lost income: 33% compared with 29% for the general population.

Among those who are self-employed, 7 in 10 of those with diabetes have lost some or all of their income.

Many With Diabetes Who Are Employed Are Vulnerable to Exposure

Of those who remain employed, half said they can't work from home.

Of those, 60% work in essential industries, with 22% in healthcare. A large majority, 90%, reported lack of social distancing at work and nearly a third work in places that don't require masks.

"People with diabetes are helping to provide the services we all depend on during this pandemic, even as it puts their own well-being at risk," the report says.

It concludes: "These numbers represent a conservative estimate of the pandemic's impact. They are generated from an ongoing online study of the diabetes population amongst people who have opted in to participate."

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