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British Columbia is expanding health-care coverage for people with diabetes by lifting the age restriction on insulin pumps.

The move will allow people living with insulin-dependent diabetes to better manage the chronic disease, while preventing other medical conditions like eye and kidney disease, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday.

“What we’re doing today is eliminating all barriers and providing the coverage fully no matter what your age or where you live in British Columbia. I think this is an exciting and necessary change,” he said.

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Dix, who has Type 1 diabetes, explained that the pumps are computerized devices that continuously dispense insulin to help control blood sugar levels.

“It more accurately mimics what the body does, because those of you who don’t have diabetes essentially are able to transform food into sugar naturally ... the pancreas doesn’t work so well for us with diabetes,” he said.

The province began paying for insulin pumps in 2008 for people up to the age of 18, then raised the age to 25 in 2014.

Green party Leader Andrew Weaver said in a statement that lifting the age restriction entirely is a “forward-thinking policy” that will lead to better diabetes treatment across the province.

“Insulin pumps are not only an effective tool for patients to manage a very dangerous disease, they’re also a preventative and cost effective measure for our health-care (system),” he said.

Insulin pumps cost between $6,000 and $7,000 and need to be replaced about every five years, Dix said.

The province expects to spend approximate $15-million on the program over the next three years.

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The age restriction will be lifted on July 3 and Dix said about 830 people are expected to use the program in its first year.

Patients will have to meet with their doctor to determine if they are eligible for an insulin pump, and if so, the doctor will then apply to have the costs covered by the government’s health-coverage plan.

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