There is much inequality with the health system here in Australia. I know that we have it better than a lot of other countries, but unfortunately, it’s not fair for all. However, there are some things that are, indeed, great.
I have always been exceptionally proud of our National Diabetes Services Scheme. I love telling people about it when I am travelling, explaining how it makes the lives of people with diabetes considerably easier. We don’t need to get our health insurance providers involved; no one is forcing us to use one particular make of meter or strips because that is all that is covered; registering on the NDSS is not all that difficult.
The NDSS has been around since 1987, and in a health system of oft-quoted disparity, it is a shining light in its fairness. (I say this with full knowledge and understanding that people with type 2 diabetes do not have access to insulin pump consumables, but this therapy is primarily used by people with type 1 diabetes – even before the NDSS subsidy came into effect back in 2004.)
However, when it has come to needles, BGL strips and other consumables required in the management of diabetes there has been no discrimination; it has been available to all.
Last week, Commonwealth Health Minister, Sussan Ley, announced that following the findings of the Post-Market Reviews of Products Used in the Management of Diabetes, BGL strips would no longer be available to people with non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes as they have been to date, questioning the effectiveness of self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) for this group.
The report (Part 1 – Blood Glucose Test Strips) announced that people with non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes will have limited access to BGL strips. That is, access will be provided for up to 12 months’ supply of strips – initially six months and then an additional six months if it is determined the person with diabetes will benefit from further monitoring. The decision is in the hands of the healthcare professional – not the person with diabetes.
The Minister claims these findings to be in line with the Choose Wisely campaign, which, when it comes to type 2 diabetes, I also consider to be flawed.
When the PBAC reviews were first announced (back at the end of 2012), I wrote this piece for the Diabetes Victoria blog about why limiting access to diabetes consumables for any group of people with diabetes is potentially damaging – especially when it relates to taking ownership of managing diabetes – and short sighted. I actually think it is downright irresponsible policy making.
The findings of this review concern me – they worry me greatly. This is the first step in removing control of the tools we need to manage our diabetes in the way we choose. The removal of choice is destructive and limits our ability to tailor our healthcare to our needs.
I don’t have type 2 diabetes, so this in no way affects what I am able to access through the NDSS. But I know many people with non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes who rely on regular BGL monitoring to assist them to live well with diabetes. They use it as a tool to make better food choices, noting how certain foods affect their BGLs. They use it to monitor the effectiveness of exercise as part of their diabetes management. And they use it because it gives them a sense of control, piece of mind and ownership over their health.
This is sending the message that non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes is not serious. And that is a very, very dangerous statement to be making.
Disclaimer – I was involved in Diabetes Australia’s submission to the PBAC on all aspects of the Post-Market Reviews of Products Used in the Management of Diabetes. Diabetes Australia strongly supported SMBG for people with non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes in Part 1 of the reviews.