Healthcare, Latest News

Insulin caravan, passport deadline nears

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, held a press conference about a December bus caravan to Canada to purchase insulin at the Monongalia County Health Department Tuesday afternoon. She was joined by delegates Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel, and Rodney A. Pyles, D-Monongalia, to provide details on the caravan and hear stories of people impacted by the insulin affordability crisis.

According to analysis from the Health Care Cost Institute, insulin prices in the United States nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016 to an average of $5,705 per year per patient. Prices have only continued to rise in the last three years.

“In a state where one in 10 people is impacted with diabetes through the diagnosis, that’s pretty scary,” said Dr. Lee Smith, executive director of the Monongalia County Health Department.

Insulin requirements vary widely between patients, and physicians prescribe very specific amounts to individuals.

“When patients who have diabetes cannot afford their insulin, they sometimes ration by taking less than the doses prescribed by their doctors,” said West Virginia University’s Dr. Laura Davisson.

Short term, rationing can lead to issues ranging from low blood sugar to diabetic ketoacidosis. Long term, insulin rationing can lead to vision loss and even kidney failure and death.

Morgantown resident Liz Rossi shared the story of a friend who died because she was rationing insulin after losing her job and health insurance.

“The system failed her,” Rossi said. “If insulin is not easy to access and cheap and affordable, people will die.”

Buses will depart from Morgantown on Dec. 8 and head to the Walmart Supercenter in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where people will be able to purchase insulin at Canadian prices. Tickets cost $100.

“Some people that took caravans from Minnesota, one person said they saved $11,000,” Fleischauer said.

Passports are required to cross the border, and Fleischauer urges interested individuals who lack passports to apply now.

The window for obtaining a passport is quickly closing. Passport requests can take up to eight weeks to be processed, and the trip is now less than seven weeks away.

Fleischauer said that Sen. Joe Manchin’s office has offered assistance with expediting of passports, if necessary, but those interested should not wait any longer to apply for or renew their passport.

Expedited delivery costs extra. Applications, full instructions and costs can be found at

Organizers are accepting donations to help cover the cost of travel and passports.

“I really felt like that my wife and I, you know, should be donating,” said Pethtel. “I would encourage people to give if they can to help people.”

Those interested can visit for more information.

“I would like to encourage all of you to talk to your friends and neighbors,” Fleischauer said. “I think if you ask, you’re going to find out you have people that are connected to you … that have this problem.”

For those who have diabetes or would like to be checked for diabetes, the Monongalia County Health Department, in collaboration with WVU’s School of Nursing, runs a diabetes clinic the first and third Friday of every month. Patients can receive diagnoses, referrals, lifestyle coaching and health system navigation help.