This blog is based on an article from Diabetes Forecast Magazine – July/August 2015
“Stripped Down Savings – How to Cut the Cost of Blood Glucose Strips”
This article from Diabetes Forecast is infuriatingly inaccurate, misleading, and useless. But before I that statement I just want to say that Diabetes Forecast is a great magazine and the American Diabetes Association is a great organization. Unfortunately, this article wasn’t very well researched.
Let me begin with a direct quote from the article:
“According to Tim Dall, a health economist and author of a 2012 study on the economic costs of diabetes in the United States, the average person with diabetes spends over $13,700 per year on medical expenses. About $7,900 of that is directly attributed to diabetes.
Here’s the breakdown: Of the $7,900 that people with diabetes spend on average, only $103 of that goes toward diabetes supplies such as test strips.”
Let’s pause for a second to reflect on this statement. $103 annually? Really? I think someone forgot to add a few extra zeroes to that number. I admit that I don’t have the data to backup my claim… but I’m claiming it nonetheless. That number is absurdly low. PWD’s pay a hell of a lot more for test strips every year. A single box of strips can cost over $200 if you don’t have insurance.
But let’s turn our attention to the next part of the article before returning to the cost of strips. According to David Kliff, an expert in the business side of diabetes, “some insurance companies are even eliminating reimbursements entirely for certain people with type 2 who don’t use insulin… they don’t believe there are correlations between regular monitoring of glucose and better outcomes.”
What a brilliant observation! In reality, people with T2D should not be taking insulin unless it’s absolutely necessary. Why? It increases insulin resistance. If your T2D symptoms can’t be controlled with diet, exercise, and oral medications, you may wish to use insulin. This should only be used in the most extreme cases, and even then you should work to reverse your insulin resistance and get off it. This ingenious program actually incentivizes the use of insulin for those with T2D.
Secondly, who decided that there’s no correlation between monitoring your glucose levels and “better outcomes.” I’m assuming that better outcomes means fewer complications. If that’s the case, lets just forget monitoring diabetes entirely. Instead we can go back to the days when tasting urine was the best way to diagnose the disease. Sweet.
Monitoring is the ONLY way to detect glucose levels. Period. And it only gets better. Or worse.
Evan Sisson, PharmD, MHA, CDE, and assistant professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, provides an alternative for those with T2D who aren’t using insulin. Sisson suggests they talk to their diabetes educator or physician to determine the bare minimum of tests they need in order to maintain blood glucose control.
Many physicians prescribe insulin because it’s the easiest way to “control” high glucose levels. Those who refuse using insulin take a more difficult path and try changing their lifestyle and diet. Unfortunately, many patients with T2D aren’t aware of the negative consequences that insulin creates (and as any normal person would do) they depend on their physicians decision in managing the disease.
*A quick side-note for those of you with T2D and using insulin. In some cases it may be necessary. I’m not judging those who use insulin… I’m only trying to inform you that it’s usually not the best means of controlling the disease. You should consider discussing other means of managing the disease with your physician.
The article refers to limits that your insurer may place on the amount of strips covered each month. This is where I get… frustrated. According to the Individual Mandate, every American is required to purchase healthcare. If you don’t, you’re penalized and will have to pay a fee at the end of the year. And for those on Medicare or Medicaid, you’re forced to purchase these supplies from a “Contract Supplier.” For more information about the laws relating to diabetes under ObamaCare, Click Here.
We managed to dig up two provisions that offer some safeguards to protect patient’s rights. Most pertinent to this blog is The Physician Authorization Process, which allows physicians to prescribe a specific brand or mode of delivery to avoid an adverse medical outcome. It’s crucial to remember that you need a revised prescription in writing.
This is essential to understand. You’re not guaranteed approval for the brand you use or the amount of times you test per day. Insurers can try to mislead you into believing that they have control over the way you manage your diabetes. They do not. According to the article however, “an insurer may decide extra tests (and the strips they require) aren’t essential for your good diabetes management.”
That’s insane. They’re basically saying that an insurer knows how to manage your diabetes better than you and your physician. (As if they don’t have any bias in the matter).
Finally we come to crux of the article, which refers to the ways to save money on test strips. They list four (all of which are a futile waste of your time).
1. Assistance Programs: Certain manufacturers offer savings programs that require you to jump through hundreds of hoops to save a few dollars.
2. Outreach Programs: You know what they say about good intentions. They’re a waste of time and don’t work.
3. Value Strips: Basically you change to a crappier brand to save money. Not the best way to manage diabetes, but hey, you’ll save a little dough.
4. Loyalty Cards: This one is the best, and yes, I’m being completely facetious. With this brilliant program, you can “rack up savings” at certain retail pharmacies (CVS, Target, Walmart, etc.). Here’s the catch: “The programs typically don’t allow you to use savings on your medications.” Nope. You probably get a $2 coupon to buy other shit from their store.
THE REAL WAY TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR TEST STRIPS
Instead of navigating these labyrinths of government protocol and insurance bullshit, try searching online. There are online stores that sell diabetes supplies at very low costs. But I still maintain that your best bet is using eBay or Amazon. Both have very strict regulations for sellers, which I can vouch for from years of experience in the industry.
Eventually we’ll create our own online store, but until then we use both sites to provide affordable test strips and lancets to individuals across the globe. Here’s a link to our Amazon Store in case you’re interested in comparing prices (and if we don’t have the brand you need, there’s almost always another company that does): Teststripz Amazon Store