Managing High Diabetes Costs

Written by Jon Vredenburg, MBA, RD, CDE, CSSD, LD/N

One of the most frustrating parts of diabetes care is helping patients navigate through the financial impact of their disease. Over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2017, the total direct costs of diabetes increased from $116 billion to $237 billion nationwide. However, the real issue for patients are their out-of-pocket costs. While the data is difficult to quantify due to the numerous insurance plans on the market, it is not uncommon for patients with diabetes to spend approximately $2,500 more per year compared to persons without diabetes. A four-step approach can help put patients in a better position to earn more peace of mind about their diabetes care:

  1. Be brand aware. While insulin has grabbed headlines due to its skyrocketing cost, it is important that providers continue to prescribe the insulin brands chosen by the patient’s pharmacy provider, when applicable, as well as the preferred pharmacy. Patients are also encouraged to look at manufacturer websites for patient assistance programs which are designed to benefit those without insurance. The top three websites for such programs as it relates to diabetes medicines are: Novocare.com, lillycares.com, and sanofipatientconnection.com. In addition, many manufacturers offer discount cards that are designed to offset the medication copayments for patients with insurance. Lastly, passing on free samples can always provide a meaningful extension to a patient’s insulin supply.
  2. Shop around, carefully. There is a tendency to want to shop for price above all other factors when it comes to diabetes supplies, but caution patients against using Craigslist or Ebay for diabetes supplies as there is no guarantee as to how the products were handled prior to their shipment. Patients could be stuck paying for products that are out of date or that were improperly stored. Instead, use reputable websites and retailers for diabetes supplies. Legitscript.com is a free resource to check if the pharmacy is legal, legitimate, and trustworthy.
  3. Make their money work harder. Encourage patients to take advantage of flexible spending programs if they have health insurance through their employer so they can use tax-free money to pay for covered medical supplies out of pocket.
  4. Strive for optimal glycemic targets. The hard truth is that when blood sugars remain out of range, the risk of more costly long-term complications increases substantially. Although it is precarious to use money as a motivator, this may be one additional teachable moment to help patients move through the stages of behavior change towards improved glycemic control.

References

https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2018/03/20/dci18-0007

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/financial-help-diabetes-care

https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/41/5/929