In today’s demanding economic times, it may be difficult to manage the cost of ongoing diabetes care. The average person diagnosed with diabetes will spend $16,752.00 per year on medical costs; 60% of that is spent on treatment. The person with diabetes has 2.3 times greater health care expenses yearly, compared to someone without diabetes. Whether you are insured, under-insured or uninsured, monthly medical expenses can certainly add up very quickly. Learn about all the supplies you really need to help with diabetes control. Discover what to do when you can’t afford your diabetes medication or supplies.
What do I need to manage my blood sugar levels?
- Many people with diabetes must take oral medications, GLP-1 injectables or insulin shots to avoid serious blood sugar fluctuations. There is usually an out of pocket medication cost.
- They should also test their blood sugars daily or several times a day, depending on what their physician recommends. They will need a glucometer, lancets, a lancet device, strips, a carrying case, testing solution, a log book and alcohol swabs.
- Extra batteries for all your supplies.
- Some need to watch how much they eat and may require a portion control plate to remind them of acceptable and reasonable portions of food.
- They should learn how to count carbohydrates and will require a visit with a registered dietitian. This may or may not be out of pocket charges.
- Supplies such as syringes, needles, insulin pump, insulin pump supplies, continuous glucose monitors (CGM), CGM supplies and a sharp’s container.
- Diabetic snacks such as Glucerna shakes or bars to keep blood sugars stable.
- Glucose tablets and gels for low blood sugar. Glucagon kits for type 1 diabetes, when blood sugars reach too low, with a possibility of passing out.
- Ketone testing kits when blood sugars are too high, and ketones may be formed.
What other things do I need to manage my diabetes?
- Other diabetes requirements that involve a range of expenses including primary care doctor visits, visits to specialists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, podiatrists and dentists which involve co-payments and deductibles.
- Prescription medications costs for other medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or cardiac arrhythmia.
- Creams for foot care, body, and skin care (diabetes causes dry skin).
- Diabetic socks and water shoes for swimming to protect your feet at all time. Sturdy, supportive shoes should be worn for complete protection.
- A well-fitting walking shoe or sneakers for your daily exercise program.
- A handheld mirror to check the bottom of your feet. A nail clipper and Emory board to easily trim toenails.
- An electric toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, an antiseptic mouth rinse and dental floss for complete oral hygiene.
- A medical alert ID bracelet or necklace.
- A magnifying mirror with a light for those with vision limitations.
- OTC products such as Tylenol, antibiotic creams, Band-Aids, sugar-free cough and cold remedies.
- A blood pressure monitor.
- A digital scale.
What costs will I incur with diabetes?
All these product expenses add up quickly. Cutting back on or going without diabetes medications, supplies and doctor visits is not the answer. People with diabetes must closely monitor and control the disease to avoid future complications that could become even more costly. Keep in mind the cost of healthy food choices too – whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
Ask your health care team
- Never stop taking medications or reduce the doses without talking to your doctor first.
- Ask your health care team about ways to cut medication costs. Request equivalent generic versions of medication, when possible.
- Always shop around for the best prices. Look at big box stores or grocery stores which may offer some medications for free such as Metformin.
- Good RX, Lowest MED and Well RX (on line) all locate the lowest price for specific medications among different pharmacies in your area.
- If you take more than one medication for diabetes, find out if it is possible to take a combination pill. Blood pressure pills also come in combination. Combination pills may or may not be cheaper.
- If you have a mail order insurance drug program, take advantage of the 3- month medication supply at a reduced cost.
- Ask your physician about joining a clinical trial or medication study. Usually, all your medications and medical care are covered during the trial or study period.
- Find out if you are entitled to Silver Sneakers thru your health insurance- a free exercise program.
- Ask for samples in your physician’s office; many times, the drug reps’ stock their closets full of medication and OTC samples.
- Look for discount coupons in flyers or seasonal health magazines in retail pharmacy chains.
- Take an accredited diabetes health management course which is covered by insurance. Many times, uninsured patients may attend the course for free or at a reduced cash rate. Learning helps you avoid future costs from diabetes complications.
Check your community
- Check with local community centers, local and state governments and neighborhood clinics to learn more about diabetes medication assistance and help covering the cost of diabetes supplies.
- Many states have programs to help people with diabetes who do not qualify for Medicaid benefits. Get involved in free screening events sponsored by hospitals, schools and out-patient centers.
- Look for Diabetes Alert Day activities as well as Diabetes Awareness Day activities and events. These are available in November and March. Look for Diabetes Expo’s, sponsored by the ADA, by checking online for upcoming dates.
- Check out the YMCA for free or low cost educational, diabetes support groups and exercise programs.
- Contact the Manufacturer of the medication
- Contact the companies or supply companies directly to see if they have a program to aid patients without drug supply coverage. Sometimes they offer trial programs, low-cost options or even free medications and products to those who can show financial need.
Check with your health insurance
- Beyond medications, people with diabetes also need certain supplies to test blood sugar levels. If you have health insurance, contact your provider to find out exactly which supplies your policy covers. They may require the purchase of particular supplies from designated providers to get coverage. Talk to your health care provider about ordering bulk amounts for optimum savings.
- Pick the best insurance plan for you during open enrollment. Each year the insurance plan may change as well as your own personal needs. Open enrollment is from November 1 – December.
- Get an authorization prior to any test or procedure to avoid out of pocket costs.
Shop at food bulk stores or online
Even if you live alone or are a couple, you can shop in stores such as Costco or Sam’s club and buy food and health products in bulk. Learn to pre-wrap meals and freeze for fast, easy and cheaper selections. Look into ordering food on Amazon which may be priced lower and offer free delivery.
Cigarettes and alcohol
No one should be smoking, especially when you have diabetes. Cardiac disease is already higher in people with diabetes and smoking just increases your heart disease risk. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and keep it simple- light beer, dry wine and regular spirits without mixers. Completely avoiding these habits will preserve your health and lots of money.
Ask your employer-FSA
See if your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). These accounts allow you to contribute money (thru your employer) from your paycheck to a savings account before taxes. Generally, you can use this money for out of pocket costs including- eye glasses, co-pays, deductibles, some medications, medical equipment, dental work or OTC items. You can usually save up to 2700 per year. At the end of the year or grace period, you will lose the left- over money in your FSA, so plan your expenses, accordingly.
Try to find cheaper on-line retail companies
- Seek out online companies like ADW Diabetes to find low and affordable products especially when you are paying out of pocket for your supplies. Shop around for discount diabetes supplies and learn how to buy them for the lowest price. For example, a 100-count box of test strips is less costly that a 50-count box. Talk to your health care provider about ordering bulk amounts for optimum savings.
- Do your research about ordering strips through the mail. You might be able to order a 90-day supply for less. Ask your insurance plan if they charge a lower co-payment for this type of purchase. Watch for free blood glucose monitor offers. Keep in mind the long-term costs of paying for strips for the meter. If they are costly, you might want to continue to look for a better free meter deal.
- Look for store brand name meters instead of big medical company name meters which tend to cost more.
Get the essentials
Consider eliminating optional items such as alcohol swabs. You can clean your hands using basic soap and water. If you are struggling to keep up with the cost of essentials such as test strips, discuss a feasible testing schedule with your health care provider. Vary the testing time daily to give you more information than testing only while fasting (unless advised by your physician). Testing “in pairs” such as before a meal and 2 hours after a meal or fasting in the morning and at bedtime can give your additional information.
You do not need to eat fancy diabetes specific name brand snacks, if they are too costly. Stick to fresh fruit, nuts, hummus dip, vegetable slices, cheese squares and whole grain crackers for perfect snacks.
Avoid convenience foods, processed foods and frozen meals-for the cost and your health.
Insulin pens vs insulin vials
Many people with diabetes are dependent on insulin.
Compare the cost of an insulin pen versus the cost of a vial. People taking small doses of insulin may find a pen to be cheaper in the long run because less insulin is disposed of at the end of the month. Check with the company or drug insert to see how long the insulin will be effective, once opened. Write the start date on your insulin pen or vial. You can keep insulin at room temperature between 28-30 days.
Do not use insulin if expired. Be aware of the ‘donut hole’ if you have Medicare so you do not get any surprises in cost towards the middle of the year.
The cost of proper diabetes self-management can be steep, but the long-term cost of related health complications is much higher- physically, mentally and financially. Work days missed because of poor self-care can also cost you a hefty amount. Reach out and explore all your options for lowering costs. Talk to your insurance company, local government representatives and healthcare team to find out how you can cover the cost of essential diabetes medications and supplies. Look online to see if you can do better out of pocket. Take your diabetes self-care seriously but try to avoid unnecessary costs.