Breaking News: Monthly Cigna Insulin Costs now Capped at $25.00!
Today Cigna and Express scripts took a major step towards driving down the price of insulin for everyday patients. Studies by groups like the American Diabetes Association that insulin prices are rising and people are cutting back due to affordability. For a chronic disease that costs the US more than 300 billion dollars yearly, highly priced insulin is as unethical as it is unaffordable. Insulin is a required drug needed to manage blood sugar levels. Without insulin, the consequences can be life-threatening. In fact, before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a fatal disease.
Sadly, for many people the cost of insulin can be the difference between if they are treating their disease or just hoping it doesn’t get worse. Insulin too is only part of the problem. Since diabetes is a chronic disease, the cost of testing strips, meters, and regular blood work can be both financially and emotionally draining. With this Cigna insulin Patient Assurance Program, at least one of these factors is being addressed.
Cigna, Insulin, & Express Scripts
Cigna, working with Express Scripts has just announced a new capped price for monthly insulin. For participating Cigna plans, the Cigna Insulin Patient Assurance Program works by bumping down your copay. According to Cigna, this results in an average cost drop from $41.50 for a 30-day supply to $25.00 for that same 30-day supply. All of the savings works out to to about $200.00 a year. Taking into account that Diabetes is a life-long, chronic condition this could result in thousands of dollars in savings.
Who Benefits the Most from The Cigna Insulin Plan?
Everyone who needs insulin should benefit from lower prices offered by the Patient Assurance Program. By the way the press release was worded, certain plans may already be paying less then $25 for a month’s supply of Cigna insulin. People expected to see the biggest benefit will be those on a limited incomes, people who are on high-deductible plans (who may be paying premiums for prescriptions), and people who have been forced to cut back on their insulin due to financial constraints.
How Do I Take Advantage of the Patient Assurance Program?
First, you need to be a Cigna member. At the time of this writing open enrollment is currently closed and will reopen this year from Nov. 1st 2019 to Dec., 15th 2019. There are some circumstances which may allow you to sign up now, you should read about them on Cigna’s website or talk to one of their service representatives (click here).
If you are a member and interested in learning more about the Patient Assurance Program, I’d recommend calling Cigna directly or visiting their website.
Cigna indicates in their press release that they’ll “be activating this new program for participating plans by moving covered insulin products to a lower copay.” You may still want to call to make sure everything is going as planned and to learn when your lower costs will be reflected in your bills.
History of Eli Lilly & Discovery of Insulin
Want to learn more about, arguably, the greatest medical discovery of the 20th Century? Pick up a copy of Michael Bliss’ The Discovery of Insulin
Spring is here and the weather is finally warming up. As part of our launch into April, we’ll be exploring five ways to get a free national park pass. Read below to find out who qualifies for a free national park pass. Want to just skip to the park page? Click Here!
1. You have a Qualifying Permanent Disability
Who is Eligible?: This free LIFETIME pass is available to people who have been medically determined to have a permanent disability.
To get the pass you can either fill out the online form, mail in a paper application, or apply in person. If you fill out the application online or mail it in, there’s a $10 processing fee. If you are planning to apply in person, then you do not need to fill out any forms in advance, just make sure to contact the site to ensure they have passes available. As with all of these passes, in addition to yourself, this pass also covers everyone in the same vehicle as you.
Documentation Needed for the Free National Park Pass
Here’s the requirements for documentation, directly from the form:
A statement signed by a licensed physician attesting that you have a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and stating the nature of the impairment;
A document issued by a Federal agency, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration, which attests that you have been medically determined to be eligible to receive Federal benefits as a result of blindness or permanent disability. Other acceptable Federal agency documents include proof of receipt of Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
A document issued by a State agency such as a vocational rehabilitation agency, which attests that you have been medically determined to be eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation agency benefits or services as a result of medically determined blindness or permanent disability. Showing a State motor vehicle department disability sticker, license plate or hang tag is not acceptable documentation.
Who is Eligible?: US Citizens and permanent residents 62 or older.
The Senior Pass is one of the very best bargains out there. For $80 you can get a lifetime pass or for $20 the annual pass.
$80 won’t even get you a day at theme park, but it will buy you lifetime access to every national park in the US sounds like a pretty great deal to me! Read more here.
2. You’re a US 4th Grader
Who Qualifies?: This is a really fun program available to all 4th Graders in the US.
Educators can even get the annual free national park passes for each of their 4th Grade Students. Here are the details! More rules and conditions can be found here!
3. You’re a Member of the US Military
Who Qualifies?: All current US military members and their dependents. Also most members of the US Reserves and National Guard and all of their dependents.
You’ll need your military ID when applying (CAC Card of DOD Form 1173). This’ll get you (and your dependents) a free $80 annual pass to the parks. Here’s the full FAQ for the annual military park pass.
4. You’ve Volunteered more then 250 hours at a
Who is Eligible?: Anyone who has volunteered 250+ hours at a national park.
This free national park pass is a really nice perk to reward your generosity and dedication. You do not need to complete all 250 hours in a single year. Read more about the volunteer passes here and here.
5. You Head to the Park on a Free Entrance Day
2019 Has a number of free entrance days to the National Parks
CBD is short for cannabidiol that’s “Can-a-bid-eye-ol”. It’s an oil which comes from cannabis plants, but it doesn’t get you high. The high associated with Marijuana is from THC, an entirely different chemical.
2. How are CBD and THC Different?
Another way of answering our initial question, “What is CBD oil?” is to say what it’s not. CBD and THC are not the same in two major ways. Look at how the two chemicals are different. At the bottom you’ll notice a one-atom difference between both of them.
What’s the big deal about one atom?
A LOT! Everyone knows that atoms are tiny things, but even changing the place of a single atom makes them have very different effects on the body.
That brings us to the second difference. Chemicals like THC and CBD work because they bind to receptors in the body. CBD binds to a receptor scientists call CB2. THC binds to receptors called CB1. This sets CBD oil apart from marijuana-containing compounds that have THC.
3. CBD Oil Won’t Give you a High
Remember CB2 receptors, the ones that CBD oil effects? Well, they’re found mainly outside the brain. Because of this, they simply don’t have the psychotropic ability.
More recent research has found that there are a small number of CB2 receptors in the brain. But when these receptors were studied in mice, no psychotropic effects were found. However, other interesting effects were!
4. CBD Oil Binds THC Receptors in a Unique Way
When scientists talk about chemicals and their receptors they love to compare them to locks and keys. Many chemicals work like keys which unlocks the receptor and activates it. Like turning on a car. On a CB2 receptor, this is how CBD works. CBD works a little different.
CBD works on CB1 receptors like rust on a lock. It makes it a little harder for that key to work and unlock the receptor. So products like CBD oil weaken the ability of THC to act on CB1 receptors. This is one of the reasons why synthetic cannabinoids are so dangerous – they bind too strongly to CB1 receptors and don’t have THC there to weaken the effect.
This fifth point is the last really nitty-gritty scientific answer to the question “What is CBD oil?” Now, let’s get into some of the fun research!
5. CBD Oil Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties.
Those CB2 receptors we were just talking about. Well guess where a lot of them are found? In part of our immune system called T-Cells. When T-Cells become activated it can lead to inflammatory problems.
When CBD binds the CB2 receptors on T-Cells, researchers found that it reduces the activation and inflammation of the T-Cells. The potential future therapies are exciting, and many people are already reporting that it’s helping them with problems like IBS.
6. CBD Oil May be able to Treat-Autoimmune Diseases
The same T-cells responsible for inflammatory reactions also are involved in autoimmune responses. Research is starting to show that CBD oil may help with auto-immune diseases, when used as a part of a focused treatment. Remember, always consult your doctor before starting supplements like CBD oil!
7. What is CBD Oil’s Legal status?
In *Most* states CBD oil is legal, as long as it’s derived from Hemp. If the CBD oil is derived from marijuana, it gets murkier and may or may not be legal depending on the state. Also keep in mind that marijuana, is still illegal on the federal level (as of the time of this writing). Here’s a great WebMD article on the legality of CBD oil.
In no state can companies claim that CBD oil can treat or cure a condition. There’s a lot of exciting research that’s starting to say CBD oil MAY help with anxiety, depression, inflammation, auto-immune, and so on. But company’s can’t claim that without FDA approval.
8. Will CBD Oil Cure my Health Problem?
No company can claim that CBD oil can treat or cure any health condition or impart any health benefit. There’s a lot of exciting research that’s starting to say CBD oil MAY help with anxiety, depression, inflammation, auto-immune, and so on. But a company’s can’t claim that it can do these things without medical trials and FDA approval. Many companies will be tempted to answer the question “What is CBD Oil” with the claim that it’s some sort of miracle drug. Don’t fall for it, and stay up on the research.
9. If You Plan on Taking CBD Oil, Tell Your Doctor!
CBD oil is a supplement just like any other. Ever hear that you drinking grapefruit juice will cause the Statins, a drug for high cholesterol, to work less well?
Guess what, CBD oil may cause other drugs not to work so well too! It’s really important that you always let your doctor know your plans and what you’re taking so he can work with you. Like we say in another post on the site – be your own best advocate!
10. Not all CBD oil is created equal
Question: What is CBD Oil when you grow it in polluted soil? Answer: Not something I’d recommend you take!
Most of the places that sell CBD oil gets it from Hemp – a natural filter. Make sure you research the types of ground the Hemp has been grown in before you buy the CBD oil. It’s great that hemp can filter soil this way, but you probably don’t want it passing those pollutants on into any sort of supplement you take!
Do You Know the True Financial Costs of Being Overweight?
None of us can see into the future. However, as the saying goes “forewarned is forearmed”. Since we know what health conditions are associated with being overweight, we can develop a sense of the future health costs of being overweight. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases lists nine health problems linked to being overweight and obese. We’ll walk through each, one-by-one.
Throughout April 2019, we’re going to be examining the financial aspects of weight gain and weight loss. A lot of websites will talk about future health conditions related to weight loss, but not many translate this directly into dollars and cents. Over the next month, we’ll be looking at cost-effective weight loss programs and ways that you can lose weight for no cost, or even make money with some creative programs.
Thrifty Patient is focused on bringing you news related to how to save money in healthcare. To that end, we feel we should make a clear argument about the financial benefits to weight loss. Just keep in mind that Thrifty Patient doesn’t provide medical advice and you should always talk to your physician about any concerns you have regarding your weight.
How Can I Tell if I’m Overweight?
Unfortunately, knowing if you’re overweight isn’t as simple as just stepping on a scale and counting the pounds. You’ll want to understand what your BMI is. A great calculator / chart we’ve discovered is on the website Braceability. All you need is your height and weight and you can see if you’re underweight, optimal, overweight, or obese.
However, it gets a little more complicated if you’re very muscular, very tall, have a wide chest, or have other body dimensions that complicate the situation. As luck would have it, Braceability has you covered there too. Scroll down further in their article and it’ll give you instructions on how to determine your weight range.
Health Conditions & Costs Associated with Being Over-Weight via
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
1. Type II Diabetes – $13,700.00
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease. When you have type 2 diabetes your body stops responding properly to insulin. Insulin is a chemical released by your pancreas that functions like a key. This key allows muscle, fat, and a few other tissues to ‘suck up’ sugar from the blood and use it for energy. Without insulin our blood fills with sugar with leads to all sorts of problems.
Connection to Obesity: The connection between weight and the risk for diabetes is well-known and well-researched. Many reputable studies have pointed towards a connection between fat tissue, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes1.
The Cost of Type II Diabetes: As with many of the diseases we’ll be looking at, diabetes and the true health costs of being overweight goes far beyond any dollar amount. The CDC reports that diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the US in 2015 and that the average yearly medical expenditure was $13,7002.
2. High Blood Pressure – $2000.00
High Blood Pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious conditions that can lead to many medical emergencies such as heart disease, strokes, aneurysms, and even death. It is another prime example of the health costs of being overweight. According to the CDC, 75 million (1 in 3!) American adults have high blood pressure!3 Treating high blood pressure is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the US. Being hypertensive also complicates other health issues. While new treatments are emerging all the time, it’s better to avoid the problem entirely, if you can, through lifestyle modification and weight loss.
Connection to Obesity: A classic study on cardiovascular health, The Framingham Heart study, came to the estimate that 26% of cases of hypertension in men and 28% in women could be connected to obesity. An explanation for this is that, the excess fat squashes our arteries and veins, so that heart has to work harder to push out the blood. Overtime this leads to chronic hypertension4. If you feel you’re obese and suffering from hypertension it’s so important that you speak with your physician.
The Cost of Hypertension: The CDC states that in 2011, the total cost of treating hypertension was $46 billion dollars between medications, health services, and missed days of work3. Estimates put the cost of care for hypertension at between $600 and $2000 annually per patient5.
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3. Heart Disease and Stroke – $200,000.00
Heart disease is a general term used to describe several different ailments. With hypertension we saw that the excess fat compressed arteries from the outside. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women and about half of all Americans have a risk factor for heart disease, according to the CDC7. What are the CDC-listed heart disease risk factors? Diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, excess alcohol use. Feels like a common theme huh? Seriously, the stats on heart disease are frightening and it’s worth a read.
Connection to Obesity: Think of heart disease as the gunk inside of the arteries that can clog up the pipes. This leads to enough problems by itself, but when the gunk dislodges it can result in serious events like a stroke.
The Cost of Heart Disease & Strokes: The CDC estimates that heart disease results in over $200 billion each year. Estimating an exact cost for heart disease is complicated, because how the disease can progress is complex, and some therapies are more costly than others. Some findings in the state of NY in 1997 had the expense of heart disease at over $200,000 per individual8! If you’re the cost-conscious type, then both the financial and health implications of obesity-drive heart disease should scare you.
4. Certain Types of Cancer – $$$
Connection to Obesity: According to cancer.net, as your body puts on increased weight, it starts producing more of certain types of hormones. Cancer is not one of the health costs of being overweight that many people think of. In fact, it surprised this writer when first reading about the connection. Inflammation is also associated with increased weight gain. Research has shown that these changes are oncogenic. This means that they create environments where certain types of cancer can grow.
The Cost of Cancer: With cancer we’re not going to try and put a price on all the damage cancer does. Suffice to say, treatments are expensive and go far beyond any specific dollar amount. The mental, social, and physical price of cancer can’t be under-stated.
5. Sleep Apnea – $6,366.00
Sleep Apea. Unless you or a loved one suffers from it, few people think about it. As you’ll soon see, it’s a great example of the hidden health costs of being overweight. WebMD defines three types of sleep apnea: Obstructive, Central, and Complex10. Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with weight gain. About 29 million US adults are anticipated to have obstructive sleep apnea. With 23.5 million of the cases being undiagnosed11. Sleep apnea can impact sleep and result in all the negative side effects that reduced sleep can lead to.
Connection to Obesity: As fat builds up around the neck and on the chest, it compresses airways. If you read about the connection between weight and hypertension, you can think of sleep apnea as the airway version of that. This is an example of several truly hidden health costs of being overweight.
The Cost of Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea might not seem like a serious issue, but the results of lack of sleep and lack of productivity cost the US economy about $6,366 per person11.
6. Osteoarthritis – $4,040.00
According to the arthritis foundation, Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. It most often affects the knees, hips, lower back and neck. Obesity isn’t the only cause of Osteoarthritis, but it is a cause that can’t be ignored. If you’ll suffer from any of the health costs of being overweight, there’s a good chance it’ll be Osteoarthritis.
Connection to Obesity: As increased weight bears down on the joints; the cartilage gets worn down by the extra pressure. In addition, researchers have found that obesity leads to a low-grade inflammatory state which also hastens the wearing-down of joints13.
The Cost of Osteoarthritis: Before we get into the cost of OA, it should be noted that we’re not going to try and tease apart OA costs caused by obesity from those caused by wear and tear. It’s very much a chick-and-egg type of question. Osteoarthritis costs the US $305 billion annually according to the CDC14. This amounts to extra medical costs of $2,117 per person with OA and complications costing $4,040 in less pay per adults14.
7. Fatty Liver Disease – $1,700.00
There are different types of liver diseases. Some of these are associate with alcoholism, but obesity is known to be linked to a different type of liver disease – known as Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis or Fatty Liver Disease (NASH). The MAYO clinic estimates that over 80 million Americans have NASH15.
Connection to Obesity: When our liver cells store up too much fat, we run the risk of developing fatty liver disease. As our BMI increases, the fat in our blood and that accumulates in our liver increases. This directly leads to an increased risk NASH16.
The Cost of Fatty Liver Disease: According to research in 2016, the economic cost of NASH in the US is $103 Billion or $1,613 per patient17. At over a billion dollars annually, this is actually one of the smaller health costs of being overweight – at least financially. Still, I’d rather not have to suffer from NASH and I certainly don’t have the extra $1,700 to pay for treatment of a debilitating disease.
8. Kidney Disease – $2,633.00
Our kidneys act as filters for our blood. Wastes, toxins, and extra fluid gets filtered out and removed via our urine. Along with working as a filter, our kidneys also help us regulate our blood pressure, help us activate vitamin D, and help make red blood cells. When our kidneys can’t do these things as well due to damage, doctors call it chronic kidney disease or CKD.
According to the CDC, about 1 in 7 people have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), with the majority of the 30 million people who have it, not even realizing it. The CDC also lists it as the 9th leading cause of death in the US18. It’s not a naturally connection to think of kidney disease as one of the health costs of being overweight.
Connection to Obesity: Being overweight leads to CKD in a number of ways. In 2017, the Canadian Journal of Medicine identified how obese individuals end up overworking their kidneys19. As body weight increases, so too do metabolic demands and this results in more pressure in the kidneys. Think of this as a river that passes through a dam. As more rain falls the river swells and the pressure on the dam increases. Eventually that pressure could damage the dam if it goes on too long. This is another one of the hidden health costs of being overweight. Other ways to develop CKD are if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. Three other diseases closely connected to obesity.
The Cost of Kidney Disease: The yearly cost to Medicare to treat CKD $79 Billion. This amounts to $2,633.33 for each of the 30 million with CKD. Note that this cost doesn’t factor in how many of those people are on private insurance. Since Medicare tends to pay lower rates, we’re probably spending far more then $2633 per patient to treat kidney disease.
9. Pregnancy Problems – Complex Social and Financial Costs
This is one of the most complex complications to arise from obesity, since it involves the combined health of two individuals. Obesity can make it more difficult for you to conceivex. It can put you and the baby at risk of problems from high blood pressure like eclampsia or pre-eclampsia. It can also increase risk of gestational diabetes and sleep apnea.
A 2015 report from Reuters states that half of U.S. women are overweight during pregnancy. In 2010 (the most recent date we could find) about 9.8% of women between 15 and 44 years old we’re pregnant. That’s about 35.6% of women or 55,892,000 women. Half of that means 27.9 million women were overweight during their pregnancy.
Connection to Obesity: Carrying too much weight can result in the problems we’ve listed above, like having high blood sugar (gestational diabetes), high blood pressure (Eclampsia), and issues like sleep apnea. However, in addition to these issues it can also result in things like macrosomia, stillbirth, and premature birth.
The Cost of Pregnancy Issues: Nothing signifies the physical, mental, spiritual, social, and financial pillars of health better then this issue. When we talk about the health costs of being overweight, we don’t always just mean financial costs. The costs of obesity during pregnancy goes far beyond any price tag we can put on it. If you do look at just annual cost, researchers estimate it totally about 1.8 billion dollars without considering any of the long-term costs20,21.
Zulresso, First Drug to Treat Post Partum Depression
Breaking News: FDA approves Zulresso as the first drug developed specifically for the treatment of postpartum depression. Read More By clicking below!
6. Jadoon, Khalid., Tan, Garry., O’Sullivan, Saorise., ‘A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study’ American Society for Clinical Investigation 2017
17. ZM, Younossi., Dm Blissett., R, Blissett, M, Stepanova., Y, Younossi., A, Racila., S, Hunt., R, Beckerman., ‘The economic and clinical burden of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the United States and Europe.’https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27543837 US National Library of Medicine.
21. Lenoir-Wijnkoop, Irene., Van Der Beek, Eline., Garssen, Johan., Nuijten, Mark., Uauy, Ricardo., May 2015., ‘Health economic modeling to assess short-term costs of maternal overweight, gestational diabetes, and related macrosomia – a pilot evaluation’ Frontiers in Pharmacology
As of March 21st, 2019 the FDA has announced a recall of Bluefusion capsules. Ata Int. Inc., is voluntarily recalling all lots of Bluefusion that are still within their expiration dates. If you have any Bluefusion in your medicine cabinet, make sure you read the full announcement by the FDA. This Bluefusion recall is a serious matter that shouldn’t be ignored if you are taking the supplement.
What is BLUEFUSION?
Bluefusion is marketed as an ‘All-Natural Testosterone Booster and Male Enhancement Pill” that “improves erectile function” in men. It was supposed to offer an all-natural alternative to taking prescription medications. Many users reported it being a highly-effective alternative to prescription medications for ED. This Bluefusion recall raises some questions about the real reasons why so many people found it effective.
Looking at Bluefusion’s website, it lists a number of active ingredients, but it especially highlights the key ingredients Cordyceps Sinensis, Aged Garlic Extract, Codonopsis and its proprietary formula of pro-sexual ingredients.
The FDA did an analysis of Bluefusion and found it was tainted with sildenafil, tadalafil, desmethyl carbodenafil, dithiodesmethyl carbodenafil, scutellarin and daidzein.
Sildenafil also goes by the name Viagra and tadalafil by the brand name Cialis. Desmethyl carbodenafil and dithiodesmethyl carbodenafil are PDE-5 Inhibitors Analogs which also work like Viagra and Cialis.
The presence of these drugs is a problem, because first they were undeclared – which the FDA doesn’t allow. Second, many people buying Bluefusion took it expecting an all-herbal, all-natural remedy. Third, the drugs can interact with other drugs an individual may be on. For instance, the FDA notes that the “active ingredients in Bluefusion can interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs and may lower blood pressure to dangerous and life-threatening levels.”
What to do if you have BLUEFUSION capsules?
First, read the FDA’s announcement here. Make sure you follow their advice and talk to a physician if you’ve experienced any problems related to this drug.
Second, follow the FDA’s instructions (listed below) on how to contact Ata Int. Inc.
“Consumers with questions regarding this recall can contact Ata Int. Inc. by 657-888-4041 or firstname.lastname@example.org on Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time for instructions on the disposition process. Consumers who purchased the product should stop consuming it and dispose it”.
This writer and this publication have nothing against supplements. At the Thrifty Patient we always caution that people should speak with their primary care physician before starting any supplments and do always do their own careful research. However, recalls like this Bluefusion Recall are alarming and raise numerous questions about the safety of herbal options.
What are your thoughts on this Bluefusion recall? Are you concerned that ATA Int Inc., marketed Bluefusion as an all-natural alternative? We’d love to hear more in the comments section below!