Managing Diabetes Costs with High Co-pays or No Insurance
Supplies for managing diabetes – blood glucose monitors, test strips, prescription medications, syringes, etc. – can run nearly $8,000 each year for those without insurance.
Though the number of uninsured Americans declined over the past 12 months, many people remain unable to cover the costs of diabetes care. Plus, some individuals with insurance have co-pay expenses that strain the monthly budget.
Dr. Irl Hirsch of the University of Washington, Seattle, and a type 1 diabetic, offers the following eight tips for keeping diabetes expenses to a minimum:
- Be aware of “bad” ways to cut corners and save on diabetes spending. It is dangerous to save money by using “off-shore” blood glucose meters since they might not give accurate readings, using the same infusion set for longer than three days, monitoring blood glucose less often, or using NPH insulin without adequate testing to prevent low blood sugar.
- Although common sense and extra care is required, some supplies can be reused or their use extended. Some individuals use the same lancet for a few fingersticks instead of a new lancet for every one. Other people wear CGM sensors more than the recommended period of seven days without experiencing a decrease in accuracy.
- Human insulins (e.g., Novolin, Humulin) are much easier on the pocket book than analog insulins. Though many doctors and patients prefer analog insulins, NPH is a choice for those on a tight budget and are less concerned about hypoglycemic episodes. Using human insulin instead of an analog can save people up to $4,900 per year.
- Most diabetes medication suppliers have assistance programs for people with and without insurance. Search the websites of your medication manufacturer for information about their assistance programs, or talk to your diabetes care team.
- Every pharmacy sets its own price for the medications it dispenses, so prices between them can vary widely. Call around and ask local pharmacies what they charge for your medications, or go to a website such as goodrx.com to locate the most reasonable vendor near you. Big box stores with pharmacies, such as Costco and Walmart, are typically the least expensive. Some people find the best deals at trustworthy online dispensaries.
- Buying diabetes supplies (e.g., lancets, test strips, syringes) in bulk can save you hundreds of dollars over time. Online suppliers such as ebay.com and Amazon.com are good sources for bulk supply purchases. Insulin and other medications are also available in bulk (at Amazon, ebay, ADW Diabetes, USMED, Health Warehouse) though the savings are more modest and you have to watch out for counterfeit or expired drugs when a third-party supplier is involved.
- Generic insulin analogs are not available yet; however, many generic brands of type 2 diabetes medications are. Buying 60 tablets of 500 mg generic metformin might cost $10, while the same amount of Glucophage can run $80.
- Although glucose monitoring supplies are an expense, regular blood sugar monitoring plus healthy eating habits are the best preventative for expenses owed to diabetes complications and possible hospital admissions.