NEW CASTLE — “Diabetes supplies are astronomical, and it's crazy because we have to have that insulin to live,” Lensi Hunsley said.
More than 640,000 Hoosiers have diabetes.
The disease has devastating consequences and also costs patients thousands of dollars every year.
Without insurance, it’s nearly impossible to manage, that’s why many diabetics don’t take the leap into entrepreneurship.
But Hunsley and her husband had a dream. She advocated for her health to make it happen. Her and her husband recently bought Mancino’s in New Castle.
“We closed at the end of October and we're still in the freshness and newness of it,” Hunsley said. “It was definitely a leap of faith. We were going back and forth trying to decide because it's a scary thing to go from having a promised income to owning a business."
Buying a restaurant is stressful enough, but for the family of six there’s an added stress most people wouldn’t think of.
“I got diagnosed when I was three,” Hunsley said.
She is a diabetic and relies on an insulin pump and glucose monitor to keep herself healthy.
“I had so many diabetics tell me there's no way you can be self-employed and not pay astronomical amount on insurance prices every month,” Hunsley said.
The American Diabetes Association found diabetics who depend on insulin cut back or skip doses because they can’t keep up with the costs.
The cost of monthly medications can range from zero to thousands of dollars depending on insurance coverage.
Before jumping into the new business, she reached out to an insurance broker for advice.
“He quoted me like $800 or $900 for different plans,” Hunsley said.
On top of that, those plans wouldn’t cover all of the medications Hunsley needs and would have cost her hundreds more on top of the already high monthly bill.
"I thought there's got to be a better way, so I spent an entire day calling insurance companies and asking them if they had a plan that would cover everything. I told them I have four kids, but our main concern is the coverage for the diabetes supplies," Hunsley said.
After calling several insurance companies herself, Hunsley is now paying zero dollars a month out of pocket for her medications.
“We're paying right around $430 a month now and all of my diabetes supplies are free. So, it's a wonderful plan with Cigna. I've been telling everyone about it because it's incredible. It's almost too good to be true,” Hunsley said.
While she personally feels blessed, there are so many others who can’t afford the medications they need to live.
“It shouldn't be that way, it really shouldn't and it makes me angry,” Hunsley said. “To think that they are OK with charging people that is just crazy.”
Between the business, home schooling her kids and managing her health, Hunsley hopes you take away this message:
“I just wish more people understood how exhausting it is and maybe have compassion if you know a diabetic because it can be rough,” Hunsley said.
She’s urging any diabetic with a dream to advocate for themselves and find the coverage that works best for you.
Earlier this month Eli Lilly made an announcement for people with diabetes.
The company is capping out-of-pocket costs for its insulin at 35 dollars or less per month and cutting the price of its most widely prescribed insulins by at least 70 percent.
The American Diabetes Association said the average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013.
The CEO of Lilly hopes other pharmaceutical companies will do the same.
The price cap is effective immediately for those with insurance and applies to Lilly’s most widely prescribed forms of insulin.