It is probably no big surprise to hear that managing your diabetes can be quite costly. The average cost of health care for a person with diabetes is $13,741 a year (over $1,100 per month) according to the American Diabetes Association. This amount is more than twice the cost of health care for a person without diabetes.
With so many expenses, people often are left to make difficult decisions: Should I pay for groceries this month or pay for my diabetes medication(s)? Having to make these types of decisions can add a lot of stress, which can affect how well a person manages their diabetes day to day and make controlling blood sugars more challenging.
There are a number of government and non-government programs that offer free or reduced cost health care, food and prescription coverage. Most programs have qualification requirements that vary depending on which state you live in. The following is a list of assistance programs, brief explanations and the programs’ website. Refer to the program website to learn more about criteria to qualify and details of offered assistance.
Health Care Programs
- Health care program for families and individuals with low income and limited resources.
- Health insurance program for those 65 years or older, those under the age of 65 years old who have certain disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease.
- Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
- Benefits for service members, veterans and their dependents and survivors. Financial and other forms of assistance are provided.
- Health program for Uniformed Service members and their families, Nation Guard/Reserve members and their families, survivors and former spouses.
- The Indian Health Service
- Program within the Department of Health and Human Services that provides federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives
- The Hill-Burton Free and Reduced-Cost Health Care Program
- Program that provides funds to hospitals and other health care facilities for building and modernization. Funded facilities provide a reasonable amount of free or reduced-cost care to those people who are unable to pay as well as making services available to all people living in that local area.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.
Food Assistance Programs
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental foods are provided to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to five years old who are at nutritional risk.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Previously known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP offers nutrition assistance for eligible low-income individuals and their families. SNAP benefits, provided on a monthly basis, can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores and some farmers markets.
- Elderly Nutrition Program
- The Elderly Nutrition Program provides community meals and home-delivered meals for those 60 years and older. Community meals are provided in such places as senior centers, churches and schools. Meals must provide at least one-third of the recommended dietary allowances.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Supplemental emergency food assistance is provided to low-income Americans, including elderly people, at no cost. Such foods may include: milk, dried, beans, meat and canned produce.
Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
(You can also contact pharmaceutical companies directly to find out what programs they offer)
- Rx Assist
- Rx Assist offers a comprehensive database of patient assistance programs run by pharmaceutical companies. Such programs provide free or low cost medications to those who qualify.
- Needy Meds
- Needy Meds provides information on pharmaceutical and healthcare assistance programs.
- Partnership For Prescription Assistance
- The Partnership For Prescription Assistance helps match patients without prescription drug coverage with the right drug assistance programs, free of cost.
- Rx Hope
- RxHope is a web-based resource that facilitates in helping people get medications for free or at a low cost.
- Benefits Check Up
- Benefits Check Up provides information on benefits programs for seniors with limited income and resources. Programs include prescription drug assistance as well as health care assistance.
Bottom Line: Don’t let additional costs prevent you from optimizing your diabetes management. If you do not meet criteria for government funded programs, look into the various assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies and don’t be afraid to ask for free samples the next time you have an appointment with your doctor.