Diabetes is a metabolic condition in which the body fails to convert glucose into energy. It’s the fastest-growing long-term disease in the world. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, an estimated 285 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes, with seven million new diagnoses upping the numbers each year.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that about 25.8 million people in the United States—or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population—currently suffer from it.

People with diabetes have to deal with many tasks throughout the day, such as managing their diet, testing their blood sugar, and taking their medications. As if that’s not enough, diabetes arrives with another challenge: a hefty price tag attached to treatment.

The High Cost of Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with diabetes incur medical costs that are about 2.3 times higher than those of their diabetes-free peers.

The medications, test strips, and other supplies required to control and monitor a person’s blood glucose can add up, fast. A single test strip typically costs around $1. Someone with diabetes could spend several hundreds of dollars on this essential item every month.

Longer-term health complications like dialysis, eye condition treatments, and attending to mental health issues (people with diabetes have been shown to have a higher propensity for depression than the general population) rack up the bill. Insurance covers some of these fees for those who are fortunate enough to have it. However, most costs are left to the patient to pay out of pocket.

ADA research found that people with diagnosed diabetes spend about $13,700 on medical expenses per year, of which $7,900 can be attributed to their disease. Given this information, it’s not surprising that many people feel overwhelmed by the economic toll caused by their physical condition.

Money Saving Tips

Here are some tips that can help people with diabetes manage their financial health:

  • If you do not have health insurance, you can find a list of federally funded health centers at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The amount you pay is based on your financial situation.
  • Some community centers may also provide basic health care for a reduced rate. Check in your community to see what resources may be available to you.
  • If you have insurance, check with your doctor to make sure you are on the lowest cost medications available with your insurance plan. Many insurance companies have tiered amount charges for different medication groups. You can save money by switching to a lower cost option if your doctor approves this.  
  • Thinking ahead and ordering a three month supply of medications online can also be very cost effective.
  • Be sure to ask your doctor if there is a generic form of any medication you are taking.  They are much less expensive than name brand medications and some pharmacies have special deals on generic medications.
  • Ask your doctor for samples.
  • Check for free meters in weekly pharmacy sales.  Many companies will provide free meters to get people to buy their testing supplies.
  • If you have insurance, be sure the meter you get is the lowest cost for testing supplies. 
  • Some companies may offer free or low cost testing supplies if you qualify.  Pharmacies may also have deals on testing supplies, or medication supplies.
  • Check with your local diabetes association to see is they are aware of any cost saving offers available nationally or in your community.
  • Online crowdfunding websites are also a highly effective means of securing funds to pay for unexpected or overwhelming expenses like medical conditions.  In this model, a crowdfunding platform like FundRazr, with whom Healthline is partnered for such initiatives, establishes a Web page describing the patient’s situation. The patient sets a financial goal and launches a campaign that manages funds for their cause.
  • If the cost of food is an issue, look to your community for programs that may provide free or reduced cost food or meals.

Don’t Be Shy

People who urgently need financial assistance for medical expenses are often reluctant to turn to others for help. Maybe they don’t want to appear needy, or they feel guilty calling on other people’s generosity.  Remember that many of the programs listed above were put in place to help, and are available if you ask. Talk to your health care team if you need financial assistance