LOS ANGELES — June Voros sprang from her sofa as a high-pitched beep warned her that she wanted a fast dose of sugar.
Her blood sugar was plummeting, and the beep got here from a steady glucose monitor hooked up to her stomach. The small however highly effective gadget alerts Voros when her blood sugar is dangerously excessive or low.
“My blood sugar is at 64. It’s too low and nonetheless dropping,” Voros, 32, stated on a vivid October afternoon. She checks the monitor as much as 80 occasions a day to assist forestall issues from Kind 1 diabetes.
However the monitor means little with out the provides that make it work, together with a receiver, a sensor, and a transmitter — a few of which have to be changed each 10 to 30 days. Voros additionally has an insulin pump, which delivers a gentle provide of that hormone to her physique, and it requires provides too.
Till not too long ago, Voros — who is roofed by Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program for folks with low incomes or disabilities — spent numerous hours on the cellphone together with her endocrinologists, her Medi-Cal insurer Well being Web, and a medical provide firm to acquire separate approvals for every merchandise. At occasions, her authorizations expired too shortly, leaving her quick on provides and forcing her to ration and search donations on social media from different diabetes sufferers.
Final yr, she acquired solely sufficient provides to final six months.
“I’ve needed to put in a whole lot of hours over the cellphone prior to now few years, and I’ve modified my insurance coverage group twice due to this,” Voros stated earlier than slugging apple juice in her studio condo within the Mission Hills neighborhood, a suburban neighborhood within the San Fernando Valley. “It’s exhausting. It makes you need to quit. However I can’t. I’ll actually die.”
Beginning in October, Medi-Cal started enjoyable prior authorization necessities which have precipitated life-threatening delays for Voros and others with diabetes.
Beforehand, authorizations for medicines and provides lasted six months, although for some sufferers, like Voros, they expired sooner. Below the brand new guidelines, authorizations are purported to final one yr from the date of approval and might embrace all wanted provides — ending the scramble to safe separate authorizations for each bit of apparatus. Sufferers can obtain 90 days’ value of provides and medicines directly.
The state can be formalizing a coverage that permits sufferers to acquire approvals from their well being care suppliers by cellphone or video.
“Earlier than, California’s necessities have been 4 pages lengthy, and now it’s just a bit greater than a web page,” stated Lisa Murdock, chief advocacy officer for the American Diabetes Affiliation, who helped push for the modifications. “It is a actually necessary step ahead. It means not having to continuously guess how blood sugars are doing.”
Over the previous two years, the state additionally began making steady glucose displays and associated provides obtainable to many extra folks, together with all sufferers with Kind 1 diabetes, a continual autoimmune illness that assaults insulin-producing cells within the pancreas, and people with Kind 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and hypoglycemia, or continual low blood sugar. Earlier than final yr, the displays have been obtainable to just some sufferers on a case-by-case foundation, in response to the state Division of Well being Care Providers, which administers Medi-Cal.
The improved protection extends to newer, extra superior units, similar to the favored Dexcom G7 and its parts, which retail for about $700 on Amazon for a 30-day provide with out insurance coverage. Medi-Cal pays roughly $400 for a similar tools.
Diabetes and prediabetes are on the rise in California. About 3.2 million Californians have been identified with diabetes. The Division of Well being Care Providers says about 1.2 million Medi-Cal enrollees have the illness, in response to the most recent knowledge obtainable.
Earlier than these modifications, Medi-Cal recipients had a more durable time securing treatment and provides than folks with non-public insurance coverage, Murdock stated.
“Diabetes is a extremely heartbreaking and dear illness, and to care for themselves, folks with diabetes want easy accessibility to insulin, but additionally the provides to handle the illness,” she stated.
Affected person advocates and state well being officers say the modifications will lower your expenses and lives by giving these with diabetes extra management over their blood sugar, and by stopping issues similar to organ failure and foot and toe amputations.
This growth in protection “improves entry and member outcomes, reduces hospitalizations and comorbidities, and improves members’ high quality of life with higher illness administration and fewer finger sticks,” stated Ann Carroll, a Medi-Cal spokesperson. The state, she stated, desires to make sure all diabetes sufferers get “the care they should lead wholesome, fulfilling lives.”
Earlier than Voros acquired her monitor about three years in the past, she needed to go to an emergency room repeatedly for seizures and was hospitalized with different diabetic issues. She additionally misplaced nerve operate in her abdomen — which prevents digestion of high-fiber meals like greens — as her illness superior.
“I haven’t needed to go to the intensive care unit in nearly two years. It has actually saved my life,” she stated.
However the bureaucratic hurdles that stored Voros from getting provides for her monitor have been a continuing supply of stress. That’s altering since she switched to a brand new medical provide firm and Medi-Cal has debuted its new preauthorization course of, amid a broader revamp of its pharmacy system.
Getting her provides on time means peace of thoughts, Voros stated.
“I was so afraid to fall asleep at night time due to the seizures I’d get from low blood sugar,” she stated. “I’ve been actually near demise, however now I really feel higher than I ever have.”
This text is a part of “Faces of Medi-Cal,” a California Healthline sequence exploring the influence of the state’s safety-net well being program on enrollees.