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5 tips for lowering the cost of diabetes

Diabetes not only takes a toll on your health, but also your finances. Fortunately, you can bring down the cost of managing your diabetes by taking advantage of patient assistance programs. According to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet from the CDC, the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in the US reached $174 billion in 2007. A report from Texas A&M University shows health care costs average nearly $12,000 per year for someone with diabetes, more than double the average cost for individuals without diabetes.

Five tips for keeping diabetes costs low

Even with insurance, individuals with diabetes shoulder significant expenses in co-pays, medication and supplies. A Consumer Reports survey found many people cut back on their care regimen (e.g. skipping doctor's appointments and not filling prescriptions) in order to save money. Skipping doctor's appointments and leaving prescriptions unfilled impacts your health and, in the long run, raises the cost of your diabetes care.

The best money-saving advice for diabetes management is to take care of yourself. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of physical activity and good blood glucose management diet, can help you avoid or reduce costly doctor visits and prescription medications. In addition, take advantage of these tips and resources for saving money while managing diabetes:

  1. Sign up for chronic disease health insurance benefits. If you are insured, check for a chronic disease management program. Fewer than 20 percent of patients take advantage of these benefits, according to Consumer Reports. Depending on the program, you could be eligible for low or no medical visit co-pays, as well as reduced costs on diabetes drugs and supplies. Additional benefits include access to an advice nurse and informational sessions on managing type 2 diabetes.
  2. Check your eligibility for prescription drug coverage. If you are uninsured or your income does not cover the cost of your diabetes care regimen, you may be eligible for a Prescription Assistance Program. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance, under the auspices of industry group, offers a single access point for 475 public and private patient assistance programs, including 200 sponsored by prescription drug companies. Common diabetes drugs like Metformin are included, along with some 2,500 other pharmaceuticals. If you qualify, you can get these drugs free or almost free, often through mail order direct from the manufacturer. Apply online or by calling 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669).
  3. Use your Medicare benefits. If you are 65 or older, you may take advantage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Medicare Part B and Part D members are also eligible for partial coverage of diabetes supplies such as glucose monitors, test strips, insulin and lancets.
  4. Shop wisely. First, choose generics and older drugs over new, brand-name prescriptions and supplies. Metformin, Glipizide and Glimepiride are among the diabetes drugs available in generic form, and generic glucose test strips are also available. Generic drugs typically cost significantly less -- $10 to $60 a month. Second, look for deals on diabetes supplies. Blood glucose monitor manufacturers, for example, often offer the monitor free or at a reduced cost with a purchase of test strips. Finally, ask for free samples at your doctor's office.
  5. Set up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). An FSA account allows you to set aside a portion of your pre-tax earnings for medical expenses. Administered by your employer, a portion of your FSA sum is taken out of each paycheck before tax withholdings. An FSA saves you money by reducing your taxable income.

As diabetes impacts more and more Americans, benefits programs are multiplying. Take advantage of these money-saving strategies and resources to get the care you need to manage your diabetes.

About Clare Kaufman

Dr. Clare Kaufman is a freelance writer who covers business and education topics.

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