One question that often arises when I meet others or when others read my blog and they find out I’ve been on so many different insulin pumps within the last 4-5 years is,
“How the heck have you been able to get all of them?” and “Did your insurance pay for them?”
Okay, yes, that was two questions, but two that usually go together in the conversation. So, this is how it happened that I have come upon them.
My very first insulin pump was a Disetronic H-Tron Plus. I was plain, simple, and to the point. There was no bolus calculator of any kind, and if memory serves me correctly, there was only the ability to give doses as small as 0.1u (don’t quote me on that… my memory isn’t as good as it used to be!). You could do normal, square and wave boluses on it though, so it was entirely too basic. I got that pump when I was on my parent’s insurance and started pumping August 3, 2000. I used that pump until it died. Literally. Six years later in March of 2006, while over at my boyfriend’s house (who would later be my husband), it started alarming at me. I thought it would have been like a piston error (it was the pump that you took the piston rod out of it, clicked it into the bottom of the cartridge, then loaded it into the pump. Sometimes I would get errors), an occlusion (because back in those days, sites were worn waaaaaaaayyy too long by me), or any other type of error. Then it wouldn’t stop. I had to call customer support right then. I was completely devistated to hear them tell me that I had used it to it’s time limit. Yes. The pump had a ticking timer internally and after it had been used so many days, it was programmed to die. And it did.
When it died, I was told I had to upgrade to the new pump (they had since merged with Accu-chek) because the one I used was not being sold any longer. So, I looked into other pumps – Animas, Medtronic, and back at their Accu-Chek Spirit. I had a high-deductible plan and having to pay my own medical expenses on a small salary, I had to go with the cheaper option, which was to go back through Accu-Chek and get the Spirit. Not much had changed with the pump in the upgrade, except they offered a PDA with software that you could sync your meter to and use it’s calculator to figure your boluses with, then enter into the pump. I couldn’t stand it. It was cumbersome to try to use as a unit.
I used the Accu-chek Spirit from March 2006 until December 2008. My endocrinologist at the time absolutely hated my insulin pump, and urged me to call my new insurance under my husband to see if they would cover a different pump. She also wanted me to be her test patient in her office and use the Insulet Omnipod to see how I did on it. So, we called, filed, and in a few weeks, I had the Omnipod. At first, it was cool. No tubes. I had been cut free of the tubes I had grown accustom to over the past 8 years. But, over the next few months, trouble started. Cannulas were coming out, pods were being jarred loose, I was having random spikes and highs that couldn’t be explained.
In July of 2009, Animas shared an upgrade offer to anyone who was in-warranty with their current pump. For a fee of $200 plus your old pump (or $700 and you keep your old pump), you could upgrade to the Animas Ping. During this time, I had switched endos and this one didn’t prefer the Omnipod due to other patients having issues, so he was glad to sign the form to try to help me get the Animas. Now, I really liked my Ping.. and I still like the system to this day. It’s one that I still highly recommend. But, as with everything, YDMV (Your Diabetes May Vary). I used their system until July 2011.
While I was pregnant in 2011, I had wanted to try another CGM rather than the Dexcom, so I reached out to Medtronic about their Guardian system. I liked the trial I had of it, and also saw that they were getting into the social media realm of things. I wrote an email asking if I could blog for them in exchange for an insulin pump (since the Guardian is pretty much the pump but without the pump guts). An agreement was made, and I received an insulin pump in July of 2011 and I blogged for them for a year. While the system they have is good and works very well for a lot of people, it lacked a few things that I felt I needed personally. I missed having a remote to bolus with and I honestly couldn’t bring myself to insert the sensor any longer either. But, as stated, that’s just my personal opinion. Many people that I am friends with on and off-line love their Medtronic pumps and wouldn’t trade for anything. As always, YDMV.
I stopped using the Medtronic pump somewhere around September 2012. I switched back and forth between the Medtronic, Animas Ping, and my old Omnipod system. This was also the year that my insurance would pay for another insulin pump if I chose to get one. I went back and forth between my options and had decided to go back through Animas and just get a pink Ping… until I saw the Tandem t:slim. For 3 months, I went back and forth about the pros and cons of each. Both systems had such great options. But what was weighing heavily on my mind was the fact that the new year would bring a shiny, new, high-deductible plan back into focus and I didn’t know if I wanted to face that later, so I felt I had to make a decision before the end of the year. I saw the t:slim in person and fell in love with it.
So, in November 2012, I got all of my paperwork together and filed for a new Tandem t:slim pump. I was in love. I was truly star-struck. But then, over a few months, I encountered bolusing problems, others and myself couldn’t use Apidra, and the little things I didn’t like started to add up. Granted, just as the Medtronic, many who have it now, love it. I do still like it, but one concern I have (and have voiced highly) is the bolus calculations. If you want to know more about that, you can email me, but it was something I felt unsafe about. Granted, as of yesterday, I got a call from Tandem saying that they are working on that issue and plan to have a “fix” for it in the next update within the year. So, maybe after the fix is released, I’ll go back to using it.
Until then, I called Insulet back and was offered to return as a new customer through their Cut-The-Cord program that they usually offer once per year. It was just my luck that I hit it right before it ended for this year. So, with $200 for the PDM and insurance to pay for the pods, I now have and am using the Omnipod. I like the new improvements they have made, but I still can’t get used to the no-tube thing. Having a tube for so many years and then not having it feels so weird for me. Others think I’m crazy, but it is. I’m attached in more ways that one to a tubed pump. But it’s not a big enough thing to make me switch away from it for now. When and if the Tandem t:slim is fixed, I’ll probably go back to it and use the Omnipod for a back-up system and for trips because the supplies for it is SO much smaller to pack.
So, that’s it, folks… the long version, anyway. I haven’t gone through insurance for every pump, but it’s sort of the way events happened that I was was able to obtain them.
My personal favorites that work very well for me are the Animas Ping and the new Omnipod. That doesn’t mean that one of the other systems that are available wouldn’t work for you.My advice is to not really pay attention to those graphs that the companies use to try to persuade you into buying their product over another. If you can, get hold of their current pump manuals, read through them, pay attention to warnings, and make your own list of pros and cons of how it would fit your life. Also, look into the company to see if they are making an upgrade to their system soon and find out how much upgrade costs usually are since those are commonly out-of-pocket expenses that you would be responsible for later. You are, after all, going to be married to this pump and the company ( sort of like your spouse and their family) for the next 4 years and not all companies offer in-warranty switchover offers like Animas and Omnipod have had in the past. Take your time, do your research. Don’t rush in. If you are connected to the DOC, find people who use pumps and ask around to find out what their opinions are about the pump they use and ones they may have used in the past.