A mystery box arrived on my doorstep, delivered by the trusty brown truck.
It wasn't a total surprise since I'd ordered it online. Especially since I could see the sender was Roche Diabetes Care, shipping me my first diabetes box that's part of a new monthly subscription program known as Accu-Chek To.
Um... affordable glucose test strips*, and a handful of other surprise goodies.
*Wait for it... I'll explain more on the strips in a moment.
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The note I received from the Accu-Chek To team tells me, "Every month you'll receive a box filled with an exciting mix of beauty, health, and lifestyle samples from brands you know and some you don't yet. The samples are meant to introduce you to new products, expand discovery, and add a little joy into your life, so we change it up every month. We've got some great things lined up for your next box!"
Here's Roche's minute-long marketing video about this new box offering that kicked off in September -- with a lot of talk about "joy":
This isn't a completely unique program. You may remember the somewhat corny D-Box we sampled last year, from an outfit called HealthEngage, that included a hodgepodge of D-items but at much higher cost and without the one thing that makes this Roche box truly worthwhile: affordable test strips.
Yes, I did say affordable.
As part of the Roche program, you can select either a 50-count or 100-count vial of strips, which come respectively with the smaller $25/month box or the $45/month box. That breaks down to about 45¢ to 50¢ per test strip. Not bad! Especially if you don't have great insurance coverage, have to pay high deductibles for testing supplies or need to pay for strips out of pocket. (See this recent report on the crazy costs of diabetes test strips.)
I personally was just looking to grab some test strips to go with my backup Accu-Chek Nano meter, so I only needed the smaller $25 amount. Looking at the site, I discovered that customers also have a "Simply Strips" option to order low-cost strips alone, without the other goodies -- $20 for 50-count, and $40 for 100-count.
That's pretty good, knowing that my local pharmacy charges over-the-counter prices of $68.49 for 50-count or $135.99 for 100-count. So as our friend and fellow D-blogger Christel Aprigliano points out, this program can really help individuals who either do not have health insurance or have insurance but whose co-pays are still higher than this offer.
But here's the thing: Roche doesn't want it viewed as financial assistance.
"While testing strips are included in the box, the main focus is the experience and the connection we're making with our customers," says Anne Gill, director of communications for Roche Diabetes Care North America. "Accu-Chek To is not a financial assistance model, but can provide access to patients who are not insured or for those looking to supplement what insurance covers."
Huh? The money-saving part of this is naturally the main driver...! Seriously. Despite the fact that the company says the monthly box contents have been "carefully curated by Roche Diabetes Care to help patients refresh their routine and discover something new — nourishing the mind, body and spirit around a monthly theme."
Since I only needed a small amount of strips as backups, it made the most sense to pay the five extra bucks and get the box with strips and goodies inside. These boxes go out on the third Wednesday of each month, and my initial box fit the September "Smile" theme -- with a little card inside that says "smiling reduces stress on your body and mind." (OK yes, the DOC often cites the "laughter does the diabetes heart good" mantra)
What else came in my Accu-Chek To box:
- My 50-count vial of Accu-Chek Smartview strips.
- Bitsy's Brainfood brand of sweet potato, oatmeal raisin "smart" cookies. These are little mini-cookies in the shape of letters, so it's like a handful of alphabet soup cookies. Total carbs: 17g. They did make a yummy little snack one afternoon.
- Smooch fruit snack - a squeezable strawberry/blueberry/banana pouch that's similar to the Go-Go applesauce pouches I like. At 13g, this was a recent breakfast and it actually tasted better than expected.
- EOS lip balm, in the shape of a little egg sphere. This one is minty, organic and is in the box because "your lips are important." I don't care for lip balm personally, but my wife Suzi does and she'd actually bought these in the past. So, she loves it!
- Deep Steep foot cream that comes in a one-ounce tube and supposedly has a "candy mint" pep to it. Again, this may be something Suzi gets more of a kick out of (ha!) than I do. And no, she doesn't have diabetes.
Roche even created a hashtag for this program ( #myboxto ) in the hopes of creating some buzz, though it doesn't have much activity yet.
The company won't share details on how many boxes have gone out in the month since this program began, saying those "sales figures" are not disclosable.
We're still confused about why they're being cagey about the financial assistance aspect of this offering, as clearly the low-cost strips are what will make or break the program. Perhaps legal concerns?
Whatever the concern, I'd venture to say this Accu-Chek To program should be categorized what way. And I would think it would be a great addition to the list of financial resources for PWDs that Christel has created over at The Perfect D, a list that includes places to get low-cost supplies and medications. And as Gill concedes at Roche Diabetes Care, the company does not currently offer any official test strip Patient Assistance Program for uninsured patients, so this fills the gap, no?
That's my take, and I am a fan of what Roche is handing down with this monthly box. I'm looking forward to seeing what the theme is this coming month.
What do you think, D-Friends?
And would you consider ordering this monthly Accu-Chek To box?