Fourth grader Gabriella Corley is trapped. She has type-1 diabetes and is allergic to the kind of insulin her insurer makes affordable — and her family can’t pay for the kind she needs every day to stay alive.
Glancing at the cheerleader from Elkins, West Virginia, at a recent football game, held up on her teammates’ shoulders, her grin as wide as her two fists in the air, you might not think anything was wrong.
Then you might notice the insulin pump about the size of a pager tucked into her black compression shorts, clear tubes going under her shirt. It infuses insulin directly into her body through a tube connected to a site on her abdomen.
“She’s a beautiful, intelligent, amazing little 10-year-old girl who stands up in the face of adversity every single day without blinking an eye and does it with a smile,” said her mother, 32-year-old Andrea Corley.
Soaring insulin prices and inflexible insurance policies have forced this working-class mom to take desperate measures outside the system to keep her child alive.
Gabriella is allergic to the kind of insulin her insurer covers at a $25 out-of-pocket cost. She can only take Apidra, but her insurance only covers 25 percent of the price, leaving the family to pay hundreds of dollars a month they can’t afford.
So her mom has turned to the black market, trading for the medication with other families with diabetes she meets online, a tactic that regulators and health experts warn is a health risk. And she cut a back-end deal with a sympathetic drug rep: If she bought one vial he would give her 10 vials from his sample kit, nearly a one year’s supply. Gabriella’s grandmother covered the cost.