The Yukon government has agreed to fund flash glucose monitors for adults with type 1 diabetes starting Oct. 1, but a local advocacy group says coverage needs to go further.
“We recognize the challenges Yukoners and families who live with type 1 diabetes face on a daily basis and we are committed to supporting them to live happy, healthy lives. This coverage will help adults living with type 1 diabetes in Yukon manage their condition and improve their quality of life,” said Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost in a statement.
The government already fully funds continuous glucose monitors to residents 18 years old and younger. The new policy will extend coverage for flash monitors to adults.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. This means the body has trouble regulating blood sugar. Complications from diabetes can result in low energy levels and at its most severe, a coma or death.
Approximately 250 people in the Yukon have type 1 diabetes, according to the government.
President and CEO of Diabetes Canada Laura Syron commended the announcement, but a Whitehorse-based advocacy group says the changes in coverage are not enough.
“It’s a false gesture,” said Marney Paradis, vice-president of the Yukon T1D Support Network.
The issue for Paradis and diabetics in the territory is that the fund only applies to one type of monitoring system — and not the only they’ve been asking for, she said.
“We have no interest in flash monitoring, you might as well stick with finger pokes. It doesn’t show you trends and it doesn’t send you alerts. It’s nowhere near as effective. But they’re doing it because they feel it’s cost-saving,” Paradis said.
Continuous glucose monitoring systems use a disposable sensor underneath the skin to send constant data to a monitoring device.
Flash glucose monitoring systems are similar, but not automatic. The sensor must be continually scanned for updates, meaning there is no function to set alerts and no automatic integration. Without an alarm, diabetics can quickly run into trouble when driving, working or even sleeping, Paradis said.
The cost is also significantly different, according to Diabetes Canada. Flash glucose monitoring systems cost around $2,500 a year. Continuous glucose monitoring systems range from $3,000 to $6,000 a year. The recurring cost is due to the sensors, which generally need to be swapped out every two weeks.
In the announcement made Sept. 14 the government said adults that prefer continuous glucose monitors can apply their flash glucose monitor coverage to the cost. Some additional funding will also be available for adults with additional medical needs such as dementia.
Flash monitors are also funded in Ontario and Quebec, but no jurisdictions in Canada offer full coverage for continuous glucose monitoring systems.
Paradis said the Yukon should have been the first.
“Just fund it. Just make people’s lives that much easier. And just pay for it,” she said. “We’re not going to stop until it’s funded, of course, because people’s lives are dependent on it. We certainly have hope always that the government will do the right thing.”
To be eligible for the benefit, Yukoners with type 1 diabetes who meet the benefit criteria must register with the Chronic Disease and Disability Benefit program at 867-667-5092. People aged 65 or older can contact the Pharmacare program at 867-667-5403.
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