For people living with diabetes, maintaining optimal blood glucose control takes knowledge, dedication, support — and money. According to a study published in the December 2008 issue of the journal Diabetes Care, people recently diagnosed with diabetes spend, on average, $4,174 more each year on medical costs than people who don’t have diabetes — a gap that increases substantially each year following the initial diagnosis.
In our current economic climate, when people are losing their savings, jobs, homes, and health insurance, people living with diabetes can face major health problems if they don’t have enough money to take care of their condition. And how can people with diabetes come up with the money for doctors’ visits, medicines, insulin, monitoring supplies, an insulin pump, and pump supplies when they are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, make car payments, and afford their rising grocery bills?
The good news is that there is help available — help that many people, including doctors and social workers, are not always aware of. Through a variety of sources, including nonprofit organizations, government programs, discount pharmacies, and direct services from manufacturers, taking care of your diabetes is possible even when your bank account is nearly empty. That said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to finding what you need; it all depends on your financial situation. It will take a good deal of time, persistence, and self-advocacy to locate the programs that will help you. Having a computer with Internet access will make your search faster and easier, but you can also find the help you need through phone calls and perhaps a visit to your local Health and Human Services office, whose location can be found in the “government” section of your local phone book.
This article leads you through a variety of resources currently available to help people with diabetes afford health care, medicine, and supplies.
In the last decade, as the number of Americans living without health insurance has increased to an estimated 47 million people, a number of nonprofit agencies have been created to help people find insurance or health care or to afford medical supplies without insurance. Some of these nonprofits are specifically aimed at people with diabetes.
The Foundation for Health Coverage Education (FHCE) is an excellent place to begin for anyone who is uninsured, has recently lost benefits, or is struggling to afford insurance premiums. FHCE is an organization that employs trained specialists to help people discover what public and private programs they are eligible for and what their most affordable options are — all for free. By taking a five-question eligibility quiz on their Web site, www.coverageforall.org, you can see all of the programs for which you may qualify in your state. You can then call FHCE’s help line, (800) 234-1317, to discuss your options with a real person.
“Many people will be eligible for two or three programs and not know it,” says FHCE President Ankeny Minoux. For example, in some states, a person who is self-employed may qualify for a group small-business insurance plan, which can be much more affordable than buying into the state’s high-risk insurance pool. These are the kinds of tips that can make all the difference for someone whose budget is tight. FHCE has provided over 536,000 people with such guidance in the last five years.
iPump was founded in 2006 by Lahle Wolfe, a single mother of four who has diabetes, as do two of her children. iPump has shipped supplies to more than 6,000 people with diabetes in its two years of operation, providing critical materials to more than 30 free clinics throughout the United States that were turning away people with diabetes because they lacked basic monitoring supplies and syringes. The group has also provided assistance to get more than 20 people on insulin pumps and plans to do the same for at least 10 more people during the first half of this year.