Diabetes Costs: Four Strategies for Making Diabetes Care Affordable

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Between increasing costs for medicines, devices and supplies, doctor visits, and health insurance, many people with diabetes are being forced to drain their budgets or simply do without. According to a study published in 2015 by the Health Care Cost Institute, health-care spending for people with diabetes under age 65 in 2013 averaged $14,999, compared with $4,305 for people without diabetes. Out-of-pocket costs were also higher for people with diabetes, who spent an average of $1,922 on deductibles and co-pays, compared with $738 for people without diabetes. And a new survey of 7,240 patients by the diabetes supply company UpWell Health found that costs cause 45 percent of people with diabetes to skip care at some point.

An ADA statement in May 2018 said, “Individuals with diabetes are often forced to choose between purchasing their medications or paying for other necessities, exposing them to serious short-term and long-term consequences.”

Making diabetes care affordable

The good news is that diabetes care can cost far less (especially for people with Type 2 diabetes). Here are 4 steps for making your diabetes care affordable:

1. An article in Kaiser Health News reports that less than half of diabetes drug prescriptions were for generic drugs. Endocrinologist Dr. Marvin Lipman says, “The expensive drugs are third- and fourth-line drugs. The vast majority of cases can be treated with the less expensive [generic] drugs.”

You will need to work with your doctor to make sure he prescribes medicines you can afford. Most doctors have no idea what drugs their patients’ insurance covers, or what the co-pays are. (They can’t, since 20 patients may have 20 different kinds of insurance.)

Most doctors are uncomfortable talking about costs, and many patients are embarrassed. A man with diabetes commented on our blog that, in fourteen years with diabetes, no professional had ever mentioned costs. At a new clinic, he was thrilled to be told, “we can also help with reducing costs associated with managing your diabetes.” You’ll have to speak up to get help.

2. Patients may save by finding a personal physician or nurse practitioner who is knowledgeable about diabetes, in lieu of seeing certain specialists (but not eye doctors).

3. There are many ways to reduce insulin costs: use older types, use vials instead of pens, reduce insulin need with a low-carb diet, and other ideas you can see here. All those ways may be less convenient, however, so it will be a trade-off.

4. Reduce costs for supplies by reusing lancets once or a few times (do not share lancets with another person), purchasing house brand test strips at big stores like Walmart, Target, CVS, or online, and move from routine glucose checking to “smart monitoring” so you can check less often and get better information. See more cost-saving ideas here.

Diabetes costs are a worldwide problem, and patients are taking action worldwide. If you have Type 1 diabetes and are interested, the group T1International meets by Skype, with members in America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. At the national and state level, you might want to get involved in supporting single-payer Medicare for All, which more and more political candidates are promoting.

And don’t forget, the very best way to combat diabetes costs is to self-manage better with steps such as a healthy diet and exercise.

Want to learn more about diabetes and money matters? Read “Healthy Eating on a Budget,” “Health Insurance for Diabetes Management,” and “Dos and Don’ts for Saving Money With Diabetes.”

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