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Are You Paying Too Much For Your Diabetes Test Strips?

Cost of diabetes test strips

If you think you are paying too much for diabetes test strips, it may be time to reassess your diabetes monitor and your test strip providers. Sure, you may get a free monitor, but as the saying goes, there’s no free lunch, and that concept can apply to diabetes test supplies.

How much does a free diabetes monitor cost?

Everyone with type 1 diabetes must check their blood glucose levels several times daily, and most who have type 2 diabetes are usually encouraged to do the same by their doctors. Given that there are an estimated 26 million people with diabetes in the United States, that’s a lot of diabetes test strips being bought and used every day.

If you have been using a diabetes monitor and test strips for a while, you may be aware of how quickly the cost of diabetes test strips can mount, especially if your insurance does not cover any of the cost. If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and are new to the monitoring scene, you might want to prepare yourself for sticker shock.

Patients often are given a free diabetes monitor either from their doctor or diabetes educator, or if they shop for their own, their insurance company may pay for most or all of the cost. But the price of that free or nearly free monitor may have costly consequences, depending on which monitor you get.

You see, diabetes monitors must be used with compatible test strips, and those strips can be expensive, around $1 or more per strip. If you test three times a day, that’s $21 per week (and more if you make a mistake) or at least $1,092 per year for test strips.

How to choose diabetes test strips
Step One: The first step when choosing diabetes test strips is to select your diabetes monitor. If you are offered a free monitor, investigate the real price—the price you will need to pay for test strips for years to come—before you accept or turn down the monitor.

Since there are dozens of diabetes monitors from which to choose, you don’t have to take the first one that is offered to you. Do comparative shopping by visiting websites that provide impartial reviews of the various monitors on the market, such as Consumer Reports and other websites, and investigate the cost of the test strips for each one.

Step Two: Make a list of the monitors that fit your needs. Along with the cost of test strips (including whether your insurance covers any of the cost of the strips), you should also consider if you can see the screen easily (or if the monitor “talks”), amount of blood necessary to get a reading, presence of a backlight for nighttime readings, how the monitor stores and retrieves information, and temperature range at which the monitor works properly.

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Review your list with your healthcare provider, diabetes educator, pharmacist, or someone else who has experience with diabetes monitors.

Step Three: Get your monitor. If you do not choose one from your doctor or diabetes educator, you can purchase your monitor from large retail chains like Target and Walmart as well as pharmacies and online sites. Shop around for the best price and check with your insurance company to see if they cover some or all of the cost.

Step Four: Find out how many times per day you need to test yourself. Your doctor may recommend one number but your insurance company may not agree. If your doctor recommends more tests per day than your insurance provider covers, he or she may need to ask your insurer to cover more test strips.

Step Five: Shop around for the best diabetes test strip prices for your monitor. The price range can be significant, depending on how many strips you buy and the supplier.

For example, a brief review of the different diabetes test strip prices online showed a range from less than 25 cents per strip to more than one dollar per strip, depending on the brand. Test strips typically are available in boxes of 50 or 100 and they have an expiration date, so be sure you don’t buy more than you can use before they expire.

Some popular diabetes test strip providers include Amazon.com, American Diabetes Wholesale, Walgreens, Diabetic Care, Walmart, and Diabetessupplies4less, among others. Also check you’re your pharmacy to see if they have special discount programs, and the American Diabetes Association.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance is another possible resource. The organization helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get medications they need for free or nearly free and provides information about discount programs run by health organizations, drug companies, and state agencies.

Here are a few other ways to save money on diabetes test strips:

  • Check several suppliers each time you shop, because providers may have specials or change their pricing.
  • Don’t get caught paying shipping fees. If a supplier offers free shipping but you have to order more strips than you can use before they expire, then you’re probably not going to save money.
  • Check for coupons in diabetes magazines and special offers from company websites. If you sign up for a newsletter from the company that sells your test strips, you may get special offers in emails.
  • Ask your doctor for free samples of test strips.
  • Beware of auction sites, as the reliability of the test strips may be compromised.
  • Store your test strips as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Always check the expiration dates of your test strips and use them accordingly.

Be an informed and proactive healthcare consumer. Don’t pay too much for your diabetes test strips.

Image: Morguefile