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Saving on the Cost of Diabetes Care

Some of the best cost-cutting strategies are free.

Cost of Diabetes: Strategies for Saving Money continued...

"Wherever possible, go generic," James Gavin, MD, chairman of the National Diabetes Education Program, tells WebMD.

The cost of medications isn't the only cost involved in diabetes care, however. Phillips expects to pay $80 a month for test strips when her insurance runs out. She says she has seen test strips on eBay go for much less, and she says she would be willing to give that a try. "As long as it's a sealed, unexpired box, I'd buy it."

Gavin doesn't explicitly encourage buying on eBay, but he says people should bargain hunt and comparison shop like they would for anything else.

Diabetes Costs: Paying for the Insulin Pump

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is estimated to cost the nation $132 billion annually. Given the numbers, 46 states have mandated that insurers must cover not only diabetes medicines, but also supplies and equipment.

Some states have even written provisions into their laws that require insurers to pay for insulin pumps.

Many people who take insulin would love to try using a pump, but they are very expensive, costing as much as $6,000, plus monthly supplies. To get coverage often means jumping through a lot of hoops.

"Pumps are not for everybody, and they're not an easy fix," Martin Abrahamson, MD, acting chief medical officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard University, tells WebMD.

"At Joslin, we have a very rigorous approach towards selecting people for pumps," he says. "To qualify for a pump you have to be a highly motivated individual. You have to be checking your finger-stick sugars a minimum of four times a day, preferably closer to seven. You have to understand how to count carbohydrates and have a very, very sophisticated knowledge of nutrition, and of course know how a pump works."

But after all that, "We have never really had a problem with insurance once we've approved somebody to be on a pump."

Thirty-two state governments now have programs to help people who don't qualify for Medicaid coverage of prescription drugs. The income caps vary widely, from $35,000 a year for singles in New York to $17,000 a year for singles in Missouri. Most programs are for seniors and Medicare beneficiaries, though a few, like Maine's drug discount, have no age limit.

How these state programs will mesh with the new Medicare prescription drug benefits, set to take effect in 2006, has not been ironed out yet, says Juliette Cubanski, a senior policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Currently, 29 states also have "high-risk pools" that provide insurance to people whose existing illnesses make buying a private health plan too expensive.

Assistance from drug companies is another possibility for those who are too young to benefit from programs geared toward seniors.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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0-69
Normal
70-130
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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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