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Making the Most of Your Diabetes Dollar

Free and low-cost resources to help you balance your budget

In personal terms, the cost of diabetes may be hard to measure, but from a financial perspective, the price of diabetes is much easier to track. One often-cited study found the average yearly cost per person diagnosed with diabetes to be $14,856 for type 1 and $9,677 for type 2, and the amount covered by insurance – if you have insurance – can vary widely. So it may not be news to you that getting all of the diabetes supplies, services, and treatment you need may take effort – and may also be pricey. Even with health insurance – and particularly without it – the cost of everything from prescriptions and test strips to doctor visits and blood glucose monitors may put a strain on your budget.

The good news is that there are a number of non-profit organizations, government agencies, companies, and corporations out there offering discounted and even free resources for those living with diabetes who qualify. An excellent place to start is by asking your doctor or pharmacist for recommendations on finding lower-cost alternatives. Exploring the sampling of options below may also assist in your quest to save money and better manage your blood sugar.

Doctor Visits

Regular healthcare visits are essential for those living with diabetes, yet they can be costly. However, if you need a check-up and lack health insurance, there are low-cost medical clinics located across the country that may be able to help. The Bureau of Primary Health Care within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has a searchable nationwide network to help locate a community-based health care center near you. For women, Planned Parenthood’s health clinics can also be a helpful, low-cost option for general check-ups, diabetes screenings, and, in some locations, ongoing diabetes care.

Community Programs

Individual states offer a variety of diabetes assistance and resource options in local communities, so your own state’s Department of Health is a good place to start. A website called Islets of Hope offers a searchable state-by-state database of agencies and programs that may be available to assist those living with diabetes, as well as help with understanding how to navigate each state’s Medicaid coverage. Other community-based organizations can help with certain aspects of diabetes. For example, the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA), launched in 2010 by the UnitedHealth Group and a select group of national organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the YMCA, offers a diabetes program in partnership with local supermarkets and pharmacies in twenty-three states. Services include blood pressure and cholesterol screening, blood sugar management tips, and healthy lifestyle advice.

Prescription Assistance

If you or someone you care for lives with diabetes, medication may be part of your life. Many pharmaceutical companies, including Sanofi US, have Prescription Assistance Programs that can help those who qualify. A single point of reference for these prescription programs is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA). PPA can assist qualifying patients who lack prescription drug coverage get their medications through the program that is right for them; many may get their medication at greatly reduced prices, sometimes even for free.

Also, remember that coupons are not just for canned goods and shampoo! Some pharmaceutical companies offer coupons on diabetes medications and supplies as well. You can try locating coupon offers through your local pharmacy, individual company website, or with a health coupon site, such as MyRX Coupons for any available deals on the products you use.

Pharmacy Medication and Support

Many national drugstore and grocery chains offer discounts on supplies, with program details available online, including Publix (over 1,000 southern US stores), ShopRite (230 stores in the Northeast), Giant Eagle (over 175 stores in four states).

In addition, there are drugstore and supermarket loyalty programs with special discounts for those living with diabetes. For example, Rite Aid offers a special diabetes membership program called Wellness + Diabetes, which includes lifestyle tracking tools, discounts, and other benefits. And CVS’s program, ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes, offers tips, advice, and special offers.

Finally, online pharmacies can sometimes offer lower prices on diabetes supplies, but the only way to know the cost for your specific needs is to check with each site. Children With Diabetes has created a list of some online pharmacies you may find useful; consider asking your doctor for a recommendation, as well.

Diabetes Supplies

Medicare and Medicaid typically cover supplies such as blood glucose test strips and glucose monitors, but if you don’t qualify in your state for either of those programs (check here to find out if you do), various testing supply companies often offer discounts or free options – so it may pay to shop around. The website RX Assist has a comprehensive directory of Patient Assistance Programs that may help defray the cost of diabetes supplies and medications. Some charitable organizations may offer help as well; CR3 Diabetes Association Inc. is an example of one where you can apply online to see if you qualify for assistance. And, finally, just as online pharmacies may offer discounts, there are online sources, such as Amazon and eBay, which allow patients to buy diabetes supplies in bulk and may be worth looking into, as well.

One cautionary point: Telemarketing scams offering free diabetes supplies have been in the news lately – with callers falsely claiming to be from major government organizations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended checking Medicare bills and notices for any fraudulent charges regarding items you didn’t order or receive. If you find a scam charge, report it here.

Sharon Goldman is a New Jersey-based freelance writer who has written on health, fitness, and nutrition for such publications as Health, Self, Marie Claire, Whole Living, Yoga Journal, and EatingWell. Her family history of diabetes inspires her to learn more about how to try and stay healthy by eating right, exercising, and reducing stress. Goldman is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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