04/09/2013 09:59 EDT | Updated 06/09/2013 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia to spend $5.3 million annually to fund insulin pumps

HALIFAX - About 1,000 or more youths under the age of 19 in Nova Scotia will be eligible for government funding to help cover the cost of insulin pumps and supplies.

Premier Darrell Dexter touted the $5.3-million-a-year program Tuesday as part of a series of post-budget, election-style announcements.

Dexter spoke at a gathering of volunteers and families affected by the disease at a Halifax community centre gymnasium. He told the group that extending funding for a pump program was a direct result of being able to balance the province's books.

"This is one of those opportunities, to supply insulin pumps that have been an outstanding need in this province for so many years," Dexter said.

The program would also cover related supplies for young adults from 19 to 25 with Type 1 diabetes who use insulin pumps and are no longer covered by their parents' insurance.

Dexter said the program would be based on need and children with insurance would still have to apply for coverage with their insurance providers before approaching the government for help.

He said program details were still being worked on in regards to whether there would be any restrictions on coverage or on the types of pumps to be funded.

"We would be looking to the medical experts to determine the kind of pumps people would need and that's where our coverage would be based," said Dexter. "It's based to give the appropriate coverage to the appropriate people."

Dexter said the province expected to begin taking applications by July 31.

Lisa Matte, regional director of the Canadian Diabetes Association, said the program would help improve access to a costly piece of equipment.

She said the average cost of an insulin pump is about $7,000, with related supplies costing about $250 a month.

"Some families will be able to afford a therapy that previously was unavailable to them," said Matte.

The program has long been pushed by the Opposition Liberals, who had introduced bills in the legislature on six separate occasions. It finally appeared in the NDP government's budget announced last week.

Liberal health critic Leo Glavine welcomed the move, saying it would save the health-care system money over the long term. He said research had shown that pumps help eliminate problems caused by diabetes, including heart trouble, loss of eyesight and the loss of limbs.

"Our plan is to see the investment extended and coverage through the adult years," said Glavine.

Insulin pumps monitor and regulate insulin levels while delivering the drug at a steady rate to suit a patient's need.