Diabetes Self-Management Blog

I broke a little piece of plastic off my insulin pump, so now I’m looking into getting a new pump. And, no, it isn’t like getting a new car when the ashtray gets full. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

You see, my pump works so well, I’ve used it for nearly one year past its warranty expiration date. Apparently, that’s a kiss of death in the pump repair arena. No warranty, no fix.

(Apparently, another kiss of death is writing a blog entry about how well insulin pumps hold up to abuse.)

All I was doing was changing my infusion set. The little “door” was open on my pump, which was sitting on my desk. I don’t know how it happened, but it fell on the floor. Or, since it happened right before Thanksgiving, maybe it jumped in an effort to do itself in before having to work overtime for the big feast and the leftovers.

At any rate, when I picked it up, the door was sitting at an odd angle. I took a chance and wrestled it back into place. After all, it was already broken. What’s the worst I could do? Break it?

Now, as long as I’m careful when opening the little door (and while it’s open), it’s all good. Pump works, door locks, thumbs up, A-OK and all that.

So I called the pump company and asked about having it fixed. No problem, right? They fix it, I pay them, I go on merrily pumping with my old friend ElvisToo until he kicks his little feet up in the air and clutches a lily to his chest. Kind of like I do with my cars.

However, it’s not that simple. The person I talked to said something about a six-month extended warranty, which I understood to mean that I needed to have gotten an extended warranty when my four-year warranty expired last February. What I did hear loud and clear was “You can get a new pump…your insurance will pay for it.”

Huh? While I do have good insurance, it hardly covers the cost of a whole new pump. In fact, it doesn’t even cover half the cost. It has something to do with a retiree getting a glitzy new mobility scooter every year, so the university where my husband teaches decided to put a cap on durable medical equipment instead of paying a percentage of whatever the piece of equipment cost.

There are other issues, too. Medical insurance generally has a lifetime cap on it and whatever you spend eats into the cap. Maybe if you move around and change companies a lot, that wouldn’t make a difference, but I wouldn’t know about that. I’m covered under my husband’s policy, and he’s been at the same place since 1981. I tend to keep an eye on that lifetime cap, since we’re unlikely to go anyplace else at this point.

There’s that knee replacement I want. I’ve done the rehab, I’ve had the injections, it’s time to have it replaced. Who knows when that will be; ten minutes after the surgeon said, “and you can’t have one scratch on that leg,” “that leg” brushed against something it didn’t like and now has an itchy patch on it. Near the knee, even. “That leg” now has more than one scratch on it.

And there’s my grandson’s mouth. No, don’t mean his teenage sass. I mean his actual mouth.

I should pause here to clarify something about the grandchildren. I do tend to talk about them a bit, to the point where you probably think they live with us. Nope; they’re just here a lot. Their mother is single and low-income, so we tend to take care of a lot of their needs. His mouth needs some attention. It’s one of those “we need to do this, but first…” things. He needs braces on his teeth, “but first” he needs some teeth pulled. His top jaw needs to be widened and his lower one needs to be pulled forward, “but first” he needs to have his teeth pretty much straightened.

The orthodontist doesn’t seem too anxious to inquire about insurance coverage for the braces (let’s just say it isn’t private insurance). Grandson isn’t covered under our insurance because…well, he isn’t our child. His insurance will cover the jaw stuff. Maybe. Looks good, but you never know. Folks there won’t tell the oral surgeon if the insurance will provide coverage until the surgery is scheduled. “But first,” surgery can’t be scheduled until the orthodontist says his teeth are straightened enough for him to have surgery. Maybe after a year or so in braces. At which point, either insurance will pay for the surgery…or we will.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. It’s beyond my ken why pump companies can’t fix a pump for a fee when something minor goes wrong. It isn’t like I bent the frame of my car; it’s more like I broke a headlight. Or maybe put a minor dent in the fender.

Perhaps, in the future, pump companies will have a list of prices to fix this, that, or the other thing. Or, better yet, perhaps I’ll know better than to tempt fate by mentioning that insulin pumps are particularly sturdy.


  1. Not sure if you use Minimed, but you return the broken pump to them, they fix it, and then send it out to a new patient, or at least that’s what they try to do.

    Posted by Sarah |
  2. There are several things that can be done with an old pump: Use it as a trade-in and get a discount on your new one; donate it to Insulin Pumpers and get a tax break; or keep it around as a back-up. IP (probably other places, too, but I only know about IP), has the pump refurbished and gives to somebody who needs one.

    Posted by Jan Chait |
  3. Repair of medical products is an issue becasue of product liability. If the pump malfunctions and causes harm the repair company will be likely be sued and held repsonsible for damages.

    To do the repair and limit liability the company would have to re-certify the device so that they would have a record that the device works properly and met all design specifications when the repair was completed. Anything less than that will expose them to possible damages, as the repair company has no “proof” to a court of law that the device funtioned properly when it left their facility.

    Therefore many companies do not want to be in the repair buisness at all — they would rather replace it with a new device.

    Posted by Rick |
  4. Thanks, Rick. That makes sense. By the way, I did take the new pump plunge.

    Posted by Jan Chait |

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