Being Certain During Uncertain Times – Affording Diabetes Care

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by Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE

Even during normal times, the high cost of medicines can cause people to miss doses, take less than recommended, or stop taking them altogether. This can lead to high blood glucose levels and other problems over time.  As unemployment rates and financial worries increase, many people with diabetes are understandably even more concerned than usual about being able to afford the costs of their diabetes care. Here are some tips to help you through these uncertain times. 

Have the conversation.   Making diabetes care more affordable starts with expressing your concerns with your healthcare provider and your pharmacist.  If you take two different diabetes pills, there may be a combination pill that does the same thing.  Your medicine may also have a generic form available which costs less, and you might be able to get a 90 day supply instead of a 30 day supply to reduce the co-pays. 

Go generic.    Ask if there are generic options to the medicines you are taking.  Buying house brands of glucose testing strips can also save you money (such as from Walmart, Target, CVS and Walgreens). 

Use human insulin instead of analog insulin.  It’s extremely important to talk with your healthcare provider to figure out if this is an option for you before taking any action.  Human insulin is much less expensive.  In fact, a number of stores (such as Walmart and CVS) offer human insulin for only $25 per vial.  Check out the “Reduced Rx™” prescription programs offered through CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.  Note that these insulins do work differently than analog insulins, so make sure you talk with your physician, pharmacist or diabetes care and education specialist about how to use them safely.

Monitor blood glucose as needed.   Many people are in the habit of checking blood glucose frequently at routine times, such before breakfast and dinner.  You may be checking more than you need to.  Instead of “routine” checking – do “smart checking” and only check when the information will be used to help you adjust our treatment plan or reduce the risk of low blood glucose. If your A1C is in target and if you’re at low risk for lows, you may need to check only in special situations (such as when you feel ill or have a change in your treatment plan). 

Know your insurance benefits.   Many people don’t fully realize their insurance plan offers benefits related to their diabetes care and they go unused.  In addition to covering for medical visits and medicines, many insurance plans cover benefits such as visits with a dietitian, diabetes education services, massage therapy, gym membership rebates and more.  

Shop around. Where you get your prescriptions can make a difference in terms of cost. Compare your options and ask friends. Call your insurance company for a list of preferred pharmacies, which will offer the lowest co-pays for covered drugs. Mail order services may also offer better prices. Two websites that may help you comparison shop (and see any available coupons):

  • Good Rx (com)
    • Search for and compare drug prices from nearby pharmacies.
  • Rx Pharmacy (com)
    • Coupons and promotions are on the website. Changes often.

Learn about new programs.   Lots of new programs are being made available to help people afford the care they need during these difficult times.  For example, if you’re recently lost your insurance, Express Scripts offers “Parachute RxSM”.  This will cap costs at $25 for a 30 day supply of generic drugs and a $75 cap for brand-name medicines for a limited time. www.express-scripts.com/parachuterx

Special offers.  As always, you can look to the manufacturer of the medicine you take or blood glucose meter you use, as each company has special assistance programs.   In addition, this a great time to be clipping coupons for food shopping and taking advantage of other free and low-cost offers such as free online exercise classes.  Talk with your healthcare provider about specific programs offered for your medicines or look into other assistance programs:

  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance (pparx.org)
    • A free service that connects people to assistance programs.
  • SimpleFill (simplefill.com)
    • Reduced cost or free medicines for those who meet criteria.
  • Rx Assist (rxassist.org)
    • Searchable database of assistance programs
  • Needy Meds ( needmeds.org)

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