By: Meagan Esler
There’s nothing quite like wondering how you’re going to pay for prescriptions. I find it odd that we usually don’t know what our out-of-pocket cost will be until we’re standing in front of the pharmacy staff and praying that we have enough in our wallet to cover it. I often feel like a reality show contestant waiting for the grand total. My pharmacy-based reality show would probably be called “The Biggest Payer,” or perhaps “The Amazing Guess,” or, aptly, “Survivor.” If you’ve ever walked away from the pharmacy counter embarrassed, panicked, or depressed, you know the feeling I’m referring to. It’s a pain no prescription can cure.
Some time ago my insurance changed, and I had to say no to quite a few boxes of test strips. I was picking up supplies for three months and discovered unexpectedly that test strips, which used to cost me nothing, suddenly cost 300 dollars. When you add that extra expense to the cost of multiple vials of insulin, syringes, lancets, and nondiabetes medications, the total can be next to impossible. I didn’t have enough money to cover it all and had to walk away feeling awful, without many of my boxes of test strips. A couple of weeks later, I returned to the same pharmacy and saw several boxes of test strips on the shelf that had my information blacked out on them, ready for sale to the next customer.
Diabetes supply costs sometimes seem to rule my life. Take those test strips, for example. We cannot be without them, but they are so ridiculously expensive that should one fall between the car seats, it can make even the toughest person want to sob. I often wonder why diabetes prescriptions are so expensive, when I can pick up one of my husband’s nondiabetes prescriptions for, literally, 37 cents. On several occasions, I’ve been able to pay for my husband’s and sons’ prescriptions out of my coin purse. But as a person with diabetes, even with excellent insurance, I rarely find myself leaving the pharmacy counter having spent less than a couple hundred dollars.
In these difficult economic times, more people are being forced to live without the items they need to manage their diabetes properly. Going without my insulin and test strips is not an option, but there are a few alternatives that I’ve filed away as possibilities in case of even tougher times. I discovered that some of the larger retailers, like Walmart and Target, offer a store brand blood glucose meter. The test strips for some of these meters are only about a third of the price of name brand strips. Recently, a friend with diabetes asked a group of us if anyone had stopped using their “fancy” insulin and gone back to the old insulin vials due to cost or loss of insurance. While there is no generic form of insulin, I found R and NPH insulin to be lower in price than Humalog and Levemir, for example.
While I have been lucky enough not to have to make those changes (yet), they’re important to know about in case things get worse. It seems, however, both disturbing and offensive that people with diabetes should be forced to risk sacrificing their health in order to save money.