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Financial Help

By David Mendosa

Posted On: December 15, 1998
Last Update: September 24, 2004

You might think that because diabetes is such an expensive disease you might be able to get a little help in paying the bills. And you might be right. Several Web sites tell how to get financial assistance and insurance.

A little help from our friends.

First, diabetes is very expensive. The ADA publication, Diabetes Care, reported in a February 1998 article, "Economic Consequences of Diabetes Mellitus in the U.S. in 1997" that per capita health care costs for people with diabetes were running $10,071 per year. That compared with $2,699 per year for people who don't have diabetes.

The best introduction to help that might be there for you in paying some of these bills is Financial Help for Diabetes Care. This page by Lisa Crawford, the host of the Delphi Diabetes Forum, lays out in a few short paragraphs the major options that you might have. For those who are over 65 or are disabled the first choice is, of course, Medicare. In addition to its ongoing covering, in mid-1998 Medicare began to cover 80 percent of the costs of monitors and test strips for those enrolled in Part B, the voluntary part of the program that the overwhelming number of people choose. It also added diabetes self-management training in some outpatient and non-hospital settings. The page mentions another option for many people, hospitals and clinics run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Even if you don't have a service-connected health problem or qualify as indigent, these facilities will treat you for a modest cost. In fact, it was at a VA Clinic that a doctor first told me that I have diabetes and began my treatment, and while I am a veteran, the Army didn't damage my health and I'm not quite indigent. The page suggests that you mention to your health care provider that you can't afford the costs of diabetes medicines or supplies. It says that your doctor might be able to tell you about city or county programs. Actually, your endocrinologist might be able to do even more. "We get tons of free samples," one endocrinologist told me in the course of an interview.

"There are all sorts of ways of getting drugs for indigent patients if they are new and the company is promoting them. Sometimes we don't even have enough shelf space for them. If the patients are truly indigent, there is paperwork to fill out and then we will give it to them free. It's almost exclusively through a physician."

Every drug company that sells insulin or oral diabetes medications in the United States has a patient assistance program. Most of these companies are members of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and are included in its 1998 Directory of Prescription Drug Patient Assistance Programs. See also PhRMA's online database to help patients without prescription drug coverage access user friendly information about more than 1,400 medicines offered free through patient assistance programs sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry and others. In English the Web site is http://www.helpingpatients.org and in Spanish it is http://espanol.helpingpatients.org/

Novo Nordisk is not a member of PhRMA, but it also has such a program, Susan Jackson, the company's director of corporate communications, tells me. "Novo Nordisk handles inquires for patients that cannot afford the treatment prescribed by their physicians on a case by case basis," she says. "Inquiries are made directly to Novo Nordisk by physicians through our toll-free number 1-800-727-6500, and each case is treated separately, and responded to promptly."

The most comprehensive information about financial help with diabetes is not on the Web. The ADA's 1995 booklet by Leslie Y. Dawson, Managing Diabetes on a Budget was preceded by the same author's article, "Diabetes on a Shoe-string Budget," in the November 1994 issue of Diabetes Forecast.

Finally, if you would like to see how other people handle these questions of financial help and insurance, there's no better place to look than the Children with Diabetes Web site. There a diabetes team has responded to 33 or more questions about Insurance/Costs


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


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