We’ve all experienced sticker shock. It’s one thing to gasp over the cost of a new dishwasher, but sticker shock for those who need to purchase medications for a chronic disease such as diabetes is a serious issue.
Cutting dosages or skipping medications due to cost could be a deadly decision,” says Christy Richards, RN, MPA, CLC and Public Health Educator with Ontario County (New York) Public Health.
For diabetics, it’s a growing crisis. The Health Care Cost Institute reports the cost of insulin has doubled between 2012 and 2016, for the same product. Unable to afford insulin, some diabetics resort to self-regulating their prescriptions, putting them at high risk for complications associated with diabetes such as blindness, kidney damage and amputation. Richards shares her strategies on how you can save money on your out-of- pocket insulin costs.
1. Talk to you doctor. Richards advises patients to go back to their doctor and be up front about what they can afford. A physician may have suggestions on how to do things differently to help lower the cost.
2. Price shop. Retail medication prices can vary widely. As an experiment, Richards called different pharmacies to compare the cost of Narcan, a life- saving opioid overdose medicine. What she found was a nearly $100 price differential for the same dose of medicine.
“It’s amazing how different the prices are. Even the same pharmacy but a different location,” says Richards.
3. Tweak the prescription. A 90-day supply of insulin costs $90 (three copays) if bought at a pharmacy, but only $60 if purchased by mail order.
4. Lifestyle changes. Unlike Type 1 diabetes where the pancreas no longer functions properly and cannot produce insulin, Type 2 diabetes is where the body is no longer able to respond to insulin. If you have Type 2 diabetes and need insulin, lifestyle changes, specifically diet, exercise and weight loss, can reverse your need for the drug.
“I cannot stress this enough; if you’re newly diagnosed, talk to a diabetic educator about diet and living with diabetes. They will have some suggestions as well when it comes to medication costs,” urges Richards.
5. Reach out to community resources. You may discover that you
qualify for assistance from community, county or state programs. Elderly patients should call Ontario County Office for the Aging. The benefit here is these folks will assess your comprehensive needs as a person, not just a prescription that needs to be filled. They will look at what you need to stay in your home and be healthy. This includes helping you look through insurance plans that will work with your diabetes and what you can afford. However, you need to let them know you are diabetic and explain that the medicine is too expensive.
Richards offers up another example. If you’re a parent of a child who has diabetes but is not yet diagnosed, you may find yourself in the ER with your child requiring immediate insulin shots
to get stabilized. The Ontario County Children’s Fund may help parents who are having trouble affording supplies like insulin pumps.
6. Medicare. Every year Medicare plans are a little bit different. Review your options and make sure you’re optimizing your copay, deductible and medication coverage for your plan. Again, Ontario County’s Office for the Aging can help you.
Remember, Insulin is not a luxury item. You’ve been given a prescription because your life depends on it and it’s imperative you have access to it.
“It’s quite often that health care providers do not know how much a medication might cost their patient, so be sure to ask. Communication is vital,” says Richards.