When you eat, your pancreas creates insulin to help extract glucose from food. Through the bloodstream, the stomach and small intestine distribute glucose to the body’s cells for energy. When your body does not produce insulin or only produces a small amount, blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, rises. This lack of insulin production and the resulting high blood sugar level is known as diabetes.
More than 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and 88 million Americans are prediabetic. The staggering costs of diabetes treatment have risen to $327 billion per year in the U.S. — $237 billion in direct medical costs, and $90 billion in reduced productivity. Nearly one in seven healthcare dollars are spent on treating diabetes and its complications.
The high cost of treatment can become a financial burden for those diagnosed with diabetes. Patients spend an average of $16,752 per year on medical expenses, $9,601 of which goes toward treating the disease.
Managing diabetes is important, regardless of what type you have. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to a myriad of health problems such as:
Treatment is expensive, but there are financial resources available to help you access healthcare for diabetes. This guide details options for financial assistance, supplies, and other supports so that people with diabetes can focus on living, rather than stress over the cost of healthcare.
A report published by the American Diabetes Association on the economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. found that on average, people diagnosed with diabetes have medical expenditures 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes. The estimated national cost of $327 billion can be broken down as follows:
The report also noted a growth in the prevalence of the disease, as well as a 26% increase in economic costs associated with diabetes care from 2012 to 2017.
In the U.S., healthcare costs continue to grow, and Americans have collectively accrued $88 billion of debt to cover the cost of healthcare. Some unforeseen and uncovered medical expenses may be tax deductible, which can help you relieve a portion of your medical debt.
Unmanaged medical debt may force you to go into medical bankruptcy, making navigating the disease of diabetes not only an issue of personal health but financial health as well. It is vital to consider different types of medical debt resources. Such resources can provide you with insight into paying for healthcare and medical bills, spotting bill errors and settling disputes, as well as negotiating medical debt and payment plans.
Health insurance assists patients with paying for medical expenses that may include doctor visits, surgeries, prescription drugs, treatments, and other medical costs. You can obtain different types of insurance in different ways. Some benefits packages come with employment, or there are individual plans available through the health insurance marketplace. Insurance coverage varies greatly by policy and plan type, deductible, or copay.
To pay for a policy or plan, you must make monthly payments called premiums. It is important to choose the best healthcare plan that factors in your health, lifestyle, network of care, and budget.
For example, if you have a chronic illness, are diabetic, or have prediabetes, it may be best to choose a plan that accommodates frequent ongoing medical needs with a lower deductible — the amount you pay out of pocket for services.
Health insurance can be confusing to understand. There are myriad types of plans that work with different networks, and a full glossary of healthcare and finance terms. A few important terms to understand include:
There are government and state insurance programs, also known as public health insurance, that are available for people who qualify through low income, age, disability, or military service.
Private health insurance is health insurance that is not offered by a state or the federal government, but by an insurance company or broker. Private health insurance may include:
There are a few ways in which private and government health insurance plans may differ, including:
The management of diabetes is expensive. Though insurance may help alleviate the cost, you might need additional financial assistance. Fortunately, there are programs and resources dedicated to helping those with diabetes get the care and treatment they need.
These programs may vary when it comes to eligibility requirements. They come in the form of localized programs, charitable or support groups, and financial assistance for medicine and diabetic supplies.
Patient assistance programs (PAPS) are designed to help create free or low-cost access to medicine for those who have no health insurance or are underinsured. PAPS are often created or sponsored by pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers. Though eligibility requirements vary between PAPS and may not be disclosed until you apply, in general, you must:
A sample of patient assistance programs include:
There are many supplies and devices needed to manage and treat diabetes, including but not limited to:
Some organizations and nonprofits create access to diabetic supplies for people who are not insured or do not have the financial ability to pay full price. These organizations include:
There are additional resources and programs available to help people with diabetes save money on their prescriptions, supplies, and medical costs. While some programs may require membership at a cost, they can help you save money in the long run. Consider the following programs focused on providing financial assistance and accessibility to care.
There are additional ways to cope with the financial hardship that may occur at the cost of managing and treating diabetes. These include applying to clinical studies, fundraising, and crowdfunding, and actively managing credit and debt.
Clinical trials and studies are an option for those interested in volunteering to test a new drug or device before it is approved by the FDA for the general public. Clinical trials are carefully designed and reviewed as they are completed through their four phases.
The benefits of participating in a clinical trial often include new and innovative treatments, medical care, regular health check-ups, support groups, and resources. Risks of clinical trials include unforeseen side effects from treatments or the treatment might not work. Additionally, patients take the chance of being part of the control or no-treatment placebo group, and they may experience inconvenience due to the time and travel requirements.
To participate in a clinical trial, you should first speak to your healthcare provider to discuss your health and receive assistance in finding a clinical trial. You may also search for a clinical trial or sign up for a registry or clinical trial matching service.
Crowdfunding and medical fundraising are not always a reliable tool for financial assistance but can provide community support, financial help, and awareness. With crowdfunding and medical fundraising, you use social media or a fundraising website to tell your story and share your needs so that people can donate and provide assistance.
Many crowdfunding sites can be used for medical fundraising, but it is important to consider the details of the site’s agreements, fees, and costs. The following sites may be used as a crowdfunding platform for medical fundraising.
Medical expenses can add up fast. It is possible to pay medical bills with a credit card. If you don’t have one already, you’ll need to apply for a credit card; consider using a card with a low interest rate, or a low fixed rate for the entry period, and focus on paying down the debt while the interest rate is low. Depending on your credit history, you may have to negotiate to increase your credit limit to cover the cost of your medical expenses.
Be careful if you plan on paying medical debt with a credit card. Consider the interest rates you may end up paying, and your credit utilization ratio. Mismanaging or falling behind on your payments can lead to a low credit score and other financial burdens.
For people who have medical debt, it can be helpful to use a strategy of medical debt consolidation to make your debt more manageable. This may include applying for a loan from a bank at a low interest rate to pay off your medical debts, negotiating hospital bills, and getting a debt repayment plan.
Consolidation of medical debt can help you manage your debt through consistent monthly payments, as well as the guided support you may receive with a debt management program.
College students with diabetes may require additional financial assistance to fund their care and treatment of the disease. First, it is important to understand that students with diabetes have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibit colleges and institutions from discriminating against a student based on disability, and require colleges and institutions to provide reasonable accommodation.
Alongside a unique change of lifestyle, and sometimes moving away from support networks, students with diabetes may also encounter financial hardship in receiving treatment. The following resources assist students with diabetes through financial and/or community support: