Medicaid is a medical assistance program sponsored by both the federal government and state governments, and administered by each state; coverage varies by state. Eligibility is based on income level and several other criteria. Among the groups of people served by Medicaid are low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Medicaid recipients may qualify for full or partial coverage of certain types of diabetes medicines and blood glucose meters and strips.
CHIP is the Children’s Health Insurance Program provided by each state. It is for children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private health insurance. For information, call (877) 543-7669, or visit www.insurekidsnow.gov.
The VA (Department of Veteran Affairs) runs hospitals and clinics for veterans who meet eligibility requirements based on income. To find out more about VA health benefits, call (800) 827-1000 or visit www.va.gov.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) requires certain medical facilities to offer free or discounted care to people who meet low-income eligibility requirements (called the Hill-Burton program). For a directory of locations, call (800) 400-2742 or visit www.hrsa.gov/gethealthcare/affordable/hillburton. HRSA also supports many local health centers specifically aimed at people who are struggling financially. Centers vary greatly from region to region. A major challenge of community-run health centers is that they are often understaffed and can have a waiting list to see a doctor. It may take several attempts to reach someone on the phone to schedule an appointment. While it may be possible to see the same doctor each time you visit a clinic, at many centers this is not guaranteed. As a patient using a community health center, you may need to share your medical history each time you see a new doctor. If you are willing to be a self-advocate and to be persistent about scheduling and showing up for your medical appointments, using the services of a community-run center can be an excellent way to get the medical care you need despite a tough financial situation. To find an HRSA health center in your area, visit http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/Search_HCC.aspx.
Manufacturers and pharmacies
Diabetes medicines can be expensive, particularly for people with Type 2 diabetes — who often need to take multiple drugs — or for anyone with diabetes who also takes medicine to treat conditions such as heart or kidney disease or high blood pressure. Fortunately, a number of manufacturers have programs that offer free or low-cost medicines and supplies to those in need. These companies include the following:
A longer listing of manufacturers that offer assistance, compiled by the American Diabetes Association, can be found at www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/health-insurance/prescription-assistance.html.
It is a good idea to ask your doctor to prescribe the generic form of any medicine you take, if there is one, and to look for discount pharmacies. A very helpful Web site, www.pharmacychecker.com, lets you compare prices of insulin and other medicines at different online pharmacies. Many people also find that shopping at Wal-Mart pharmacy gives significant savings because of its $4 prescription program and its low-priced ReliOn blood glucose test strips and supplies.