Student With Diabetes Forced To Decide Between Health Care Or Going To College

A Massachusetts college student with diabetes is facing a tough situation: Either she stops going to college full-time to qualify for the insurance she’s currently using, or she opts for help from the state that isn’t going to give her the quality of life she’s used to. So what’s a student trying to get ahead in life to do — try to get an education on a part-time basis or get along without the insulin pump that helps her treat her diabetes?

Katie’s had diabetes since she was 9, reports CBS Boston, and her mom has been grateful to qualify for MassHealth. That coverage has allowed Katie to use an insulin pump to regulate her blood sugar, something that at $1,000 a month, her single mother couldn’t afford otherwise.

Things took a turn for the awful when Katie says she started getting phone calls after her freshman year at school, saying the appointments she had at the doctor weren’t going to work out if she didn’t have health insurance — she’d have to find a way to pay. But wait, what about MassHealth? Turns out, they pulled the plug when she turned 19 and began attending college full-time.

The somewhat good news is she can get help  from the state — Health Safety Net covers insulin but not the pump delivery system. Her mom says injections don’t work as well as the pump, and could cause health issues in the future.

“It means the control of her diabetes is nowhere near as effective and long term, she could have major complications from blindness to kidney failure,” she said.

Katie does qualify for health insurance through UMass — but the $2,755 it costs isn’t covered by her financial aid, and her mother can’t afford it either. If she only went to school part-time she could get more government help, but then she’d lose her financial aid package. That’s a dilemma no one would relish facing.

Her case is far from ideal, and a local politician has weighed in on the situation without any solution in sight.

“It’s not a good choice to have to choose between full-time college and health coverage,” said State Senator Richard Moore, the Chairman of the joint committee on health care financing. “We really need to look into this.”

If MassHealth operated under the same rules as private insurers, Katie would qualify for her mom’s insurance plan until she was 26, prompting the question of whether states should also adopt similar rules for public health insurance. Those seven years could go a long way toward helping students finish their educations as well as receive adequate health care in the meantime.

Local Student Forced To Choose Between College And Health Care [CBS Boston]



Edit Your Comment

  1. Haggus says:

    Not to sound critical, but people do quite well without a pump. It’s more work to be sure, but it costs less.

    Secondly, while T1DM need insulin, they can lower their requirements by limitting foods that cause sugar spikes. Those are carbs and excessive amount of protein.

    A good place to start is at and read up on Dr. Richard K. Bernstein.

    • coffeeculture says:

      jesus this site you linked just reeks of “infomercial”

    • Cider Eider says:

      Not for everyone. I had a friend with type I diabetes who just wouldn’t be able to manage her diabetes without the pump, which is how she got one at all. Most insurance companies aren’t too liberal with covering insulin pumps.

    • msbaskx2 says:

      So she should let Dr Haggus decide that she’ll be just fine without a pump, even though her own mother says “injections don’t work as well as the pump”?

    • Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

      You do sound too critical. This is a very personal disease and when there are multiple approaches, each individual is able to choose the method that works best for them and their life. I agree with a lot of what Bernstein says, but he even he admits that he is no expert on insulin pumping and does not contribute to /follow that approach.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      maybe she’s got complications. i’ve had gastroparesis from my MS for longer than i’ve been a type 1 diabetic. that meant 15-20 shots a day and frequent severe hypoglycemia when my insulin worked faster than my digestion.
      even without that, insulin pumps are shown to be able to improve glucose control considerably for many people due to micro dosing capabilities

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Exactly. My sister’s prognosis improved exponentially when she went on a pump. There would be no going back to the days of 7 or more shots per day, trying to get somewhere close to accurate, when she can be perfect now. Every time your blood sugar is high, you’re adding organ damage. All of those times add up.

    • daemonaquila says:

      False, depending on the type of diabetes. Brittle Type I patients are not well controlled on injections.

  2. shufflemoomin says:

    It really is upsetting to me to read of people going through things like this. People consider the USA the “super-power” of the world. People shouldn’t have to worry about where to get huge sums of money just to get a decent education to ensure a decent life or to worry about how to pay for their health or survival. I wish the people of the US would learn more about the wider world and learn that the situation they have is far from the great one they think it is. US citizens will blindly follow the “USA number one” party line, but the sad truth is there’s many other countries where she wouldn’t have to worry so much about either problem. I truly feel sorry this for girl and other people in her situation.

    • PupJet says:

      *Looks* What people are you talking about? I sure in the hell don’t. With all the issues we have in this country right now, I’m surprised anyone wants to immigrate here!

      I know my state recently screwed me hard. I was on 2 different types of insurance (with another paying the co-pays of both), then the state steps in and says “You qualify for Medicaid!” which suddenly my others drop me, forcing me to take them. It gets better though, a year later (renewal time), the state says “Your no longer eligible even though your situation/status hasn’t changed.”

      I am now back on the previous one’s I had, but since I also have a court date in November, I had lost a LOT of viable and potential information that could help in the case because I couldn’t afford to see a specialist during that time (it took 4 months).

      I love this country, but I hate it at the same time.

    • cactus jack says:

      Yep, but then she’d be bitching about a VAT, the cost of petrol, and numerous other things she would have taken for granted here. The “grass is always greener” fits your statement perfectly.

      The “wider” world has its ups and downs just like we do.

  3. craftman says:

    Am I the only person who worked and went to school at the same time?

    This is such a false choice: school part time + more government help or full time school and no help. You aren’t incapable of earning an income.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      You don’t know the extent of her illness. Maybe she can’t. My sister, a diabetic with a pump, tried to work nights and go to school, and her doctor actually made her stop, because it was affecting her blood sugars negatively.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        yeah, i had two jobs for many many years, one full time, one part time. when i developed type 1 diabetes i tried to keep it up. back in the hospital two months later and my doc ordered me to quit my part time he explained it, having type is already like having a 2nd full time job that you can never have a vacation from again

  4. cactus jack says:

    Maybe I’m not understanding where she is going to school, but if she qualifies for insurance through UMass, I assume that is where she is going. Every major university I applied to had an insurance requirement and would auto-enroll students in their program unless they could prove they had better private insurance. I don’t understand how she “can’t afford it” yet continues to go to school there.

    Looking at their website it is the same at her school too. So now she’s uninsured on a free care program (Health Safety Net) that the school doesn’t find adequate and going to a major university that REQUIRES decent health coverage?
    Something just isn’t adding up.

    • daemonaquila says:

      It absolutely adds up – easy answer. What’s so hard to understand about her not having an additional $2,755 to pay the premiums? That’s not automatic enrollment, when you have to pay for it. So once again, she hits a barrier to going to school. If she goes part-time, she holds on to her insurance but loses her funding. If she goes full-time, she loses her coverage and instead is required to pay for insurance that she can’t afford – and gets kicked out of school when she fails to do so.

      • cactus jack says:

        “How do I enroll?
        If you’re taking 5 or more credits, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll be automatically enrolled in the SHBP and the charges will appear on your tuition bill.”

        • cactus jack says:

          Sorry, hit reply early. But it is automatic enrollment. It’s wrapped up into your tuition, just like gym services, and other crap you probably will never use but have no idea you are paying for until you actually look at the itemized list.

          Generally your student loans cover all of that as tuition and then you get the remainder as a check from the school. So again, this really makes no sense to me how this suddenly became a separate insurance issue since she is getting student loan benefits already. And if she can’t afford to pay the insurance portion, she probably is going to struggle paying $200-400 on books on top of that if there was nothing left.

          I wish there was more information as I feel there are a few holes in this story before I can just accept her being screwed by the system.

  5. PunditGuy says:

    It’s not optimal, but the worst that could happen here is that she switches to shots until she finishes school. There are probably thousands of kids who never had a pump in the first place — I doubt there will be major complications unless she really sucks at managing her condition.

    • baristabrawl says:

      My thoughts, exactly. She’s probably never had to manage her condition because the pump always did it for her. Too bad, learn.

      Unrelated: I bet her major is nursing.

      • Christopher Wilson says:

        If you don’t know what a tool does, don’t comment on it. The pump does NOT manage the condition. Rather it allows you get to tighter control than shots. I have brittle diabetes and its impossible to control without the pump. The pump doesn’t check your blood sugar and dose and make it so you do nothing.

        You still check your blood sugar. You still have to watch your diet. The pump just allows you to set per hour how much you get so that it better mimics the pancreas. It runs on short acting insulin rather than using long acting which isn’t always as predictable.

        Further, diabetes is a full time job that adds unneeded stress, why would you want to make it more of a pain? The pump is a tool, not a cure.

  6. Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

    Contacted your pump supplier to see what assistance they can offer.

    Also try

    Join a d-blog and ask for help. A lot of pwd’s end up with surplus inventory one way or another.

  7. baristabrawl says:

    Three Thoughts: I think she should opt for the inexpensive treatment that takes more work. It’s 4 years of her life, she can stand on her head that long.

    I have noted her name and will not hire her to work for me because I assume no one is coming with her to her job and she’s devoid of critical thinking skills and is unable to adapt during a budget crunch.

    Thanks Obamacare! But seriously: This is one way you make sure we’re on the way to universal healthcare. Insure kids until age 26 on their parents plans and YOINK that when they are 26 and start charging them $500/month for insurance. In Katie’s case, you do the same thing, only until she’s 19. She’s still not paying for her insurance and would like for someone else to come up with a solution for that.

    I’m not out to offend anyone, but she needs to nut up and deal with her disease. Diabetes is manageable in most cases.

    • daemonaquila says:

      Wow, that’s a judgmental and uninformed attitude. Insulin pumping is rarely a choice for the brittle cases where it’s used. Nobody runs around with a pump strapped to their side, with needles taped into their bodies at all times, deals with infections and skin irritations, and worries about mechanical failure because it’s convenient. You might as well tell a person on chemo to “nut up” about missing a few doses – hey, they can always catch up later, right? Even a single episode of extreme hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis can destroy a person’s brain and organs, and lots of “small” episodes will be terribly damaging in a much shorter time span than most people imagine. If she was “most cases,” she wouldn’t be on an insulin pump.

      She’ll be lucky not to have an employer like you.

  8. Coder4Life says:

    It says UMass healthcare costs $2755. Is that for the year? If so, why can’t she get a part time job.

    10 Hours a week x $8.00 = $320. She would also get a college tax credit meaning she’d end up paying no taxes either.

    I worked all throughout college nearly every weekend and on breaks. It’s not like she would have to work 40 hours a week. 10 hours isn’t that much.

  9. axiomatic says:

    Insurance companies are notoriously unsympathetic to diabetics. I am a type 2 diabetic (not a fatty either I am 6′ and 155lbs.) and am starting to suffer from diabetic gastroparesis. When I went to set up my various out patient surgeries I was denied some of them and actually told by the insurance phone agent that I was making up this word gastroparesis because her spell checker didn’t recognize the word. What?!?! Thankfully elevating to a supervisor eventually got me the procedures I needed.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i’ve got gastroparesis from my MS that wasn’t clearly identified until i developed type 1 and my insulin didn’t match my digestion
      i’ve been managing my gastroparesis for 5 years now with dietary changes. but it irritates me when the nurses at my doctor’s office don’t know how to spell it and my endo suggested i go on a low carb diet. processed carbs are one of the few things i can eat at all. i just started laughing at that suggestion. she completely forgot that my GI doc and diabetic nutritionist already put me on a medically restricted diet and that there’s not a lot of room for deviation.

      so many people have offered me food over the years and asked me what i cannot eat that i actually made a flow chart of what i can eat just because it’s easier. not that every person with gastroparesis has the same things they can eat, and my list takes my food allergies into consideration. but it sure stopped a lot of people trying to cook for “the poor sick girl”

      best of luck managing your gastroparesis

  10. Justme says:

    I worked full time while going to college/university. The retailer I worked for offered health insurance for full-time work status.

  11. PsiCop says:

    Re: “Her case is far from ideal, and a local politician has weighed in on the situation without any solution in sight. ‘It’s not a good choice to have to choose between full-time college and health coverage,’ said State Senator Richard Moore, the Chairman of the joint committee on health care financing. ‘We really need to look into this.'”

    Gotta love those politicians! Willing to express concern when something bad happens, but unwilling to do anything more than merely “look into this.”