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Managing the cost of diabetes

In this tough economy, it can be challenging to manage the cost of diabetes care. If you're one of the many unemployed or underemployed individuals, you may be without health insurance. Even with good health and without any outstanding medical bills, monthly medical expenses add up, from co-pays for prescription medications to non-prescription items such as healthy food.

It's been reported that in these challenging economic times, people with diabetes have cut back on — or even gone without — doctor visits, insulin, medications and blood-sugar testing as they've lost income and health insurance.

Looking for ways to spend less money may be difficult if you have diabetes. But if you have diabetes and don't closely monitor and control your disease, you dramatically increase your risk for diabetes complications. The cost of treating such complications can be much greater than what might be spent on medications and supplies.

The American Diabetes Association offers the following tips for helping manage the cost of diabetes care:

Diabetes medications

  • Don't stop taking medications or reduce the dose of medications without first discussing it with your doctor.
  • Discuss medication costs with your health care provider. Ask for equivalent generic medications whenever possible. Then, shop around for the best prices.
  • If you're on more than one medication for diabetes, discuss the possibility of taking a combination diabetes drug with your health care provider.
  • Check with your local and state governments and local community centers and clinics for diabetes medication and supply prescription assistance. Many state governments have programs to help those who don't qualify for Medicaid.
  • Some drug companies offer assistance to those without drug coverage. You can inquire by calling the drug company directly.

Diabetes supplies

  • First, if you have health insurance, know what your policy covers.
  • Order test strips in bulk. A 100-count box of test strips is cheaper than a 50-count box. Ask your health care provider to order bulk sizes.
  • Research ordering strips through the mail, such as a 90-day supply. Many insurance plans charge a lower co-pay for this.
  • Look for generic brand meters and supplies.
  • Free blood glucose monitors are easy to come by. Don't get the first free glucose meter that you see, as the long-term cost is in the strips.
  • It's not necessary to buy alcohol swabs; cleaning well with soap and water is all you need.
  • If you can't afford to test as much as you'd like, talk to your health care provider or diabetes educator about a testing schedule that's feasible for you.

Insulin and related supplies

  • Check with your diabetes health care provider or educator as to how long you can use your insulin once opened. It differs by type of insulin. Write the start date on your insulin vial or pen.
  • Compare the cost of an insulin pen with the cost of a vial. If you're on small doses of insulin, an insulin pen may be cheaper in the long run, because you throw less insulin away at the end of the month.
  • If you use a pump, explore all options for covering the cost of the pump and supplies.
  • Buy syringes in bulk.
  • If you buy insulin in bulk, make sure to check the expiration date and use the insulin before it expires.

The price of good diabetes control is high, but the long-term cost of not staying healthy is higher. In what ways are you managing the cost of diabetes care?

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