Blood Sugar Monitoring Dictated By Health Insurance Rules and Cost.

Blood Sugar Monitoring Dictated By Health Insurance Rules and Cost

Within 9 months of my diagnosis, I was living med-free. I attribute that to consistently checking my blood sugars, maintaining restrictive and scheduled meals, regular exercise, and whatever x factor (age, beta cells, luck) that allowed my body to do it. I lived a med-free life for almost three of the six years I have been living with type 2 diabetes. While I enjoyed being able to manage diabetes without medication, it wasn’t easy. One of the hardest parts was being encouraged to check my blood sugars less often and fighting a losing battle with insurance companies to get enough test strips.

Why not check blood glucose often?

Today, I’m on oral meds and maintain a A1C less than 6.5 but more than 5.5. According to my insurance company’s rules this means that I am allowed to have 50 test strips per month. When I was managing med-free (A1C consistently 5.5 or less), I wasn’t given any test strips. My efforts to explain that my numbers were low because I checked my blood sugars multiple times a day were in vain. I gave up on requesting more as none of my phone calls or letters reaped positive results. Even now, I am grateful for the 50 test strips I get monthly, but it’s not nearly enough to last a month.

I used to wonder why many of the type 2 people I came in contact with didn’t test their blood sugars often, but over time, I have come to understand. Each of the four endocrinologists I have had has said some version of “you don’t have to test so often.” However, it’s a catch 22 because these are the same people that are cheerleaders for lowered A1C results. When I explain that I am doing better because I test often and can make informed decisions about food choices when I know my blood sugar levels, they say they understand but must work within the parameters of insurance guidelines.

I think it’s unfortunate that I’ve had to pay more than $100 per month on test strips in order to get the data that I need to live and manage diabetes in a way that I feel most comfortable. I wish unlimited test strips could be a right that every person living with diabetes has rather than divide us by medication types and A1C numbers.

Part of me wants to get back to those med-free days of yesteryear, if it’s possible, but I am also hesitant about the lifestyle and financial changes that it would bring. I would need to be more restrictive than I am now. As a new mother, I have chosen to prioritize the spontaneity of parenthood over being extremely strict about my diabetes management. For example, this morning I ate three spoons of cereal with a big smile on my face followed by singing “Yummy, yummy, get in my tummy” after each bite. This was done in an effort to get my daughter to eat her breakfast. I didn’t think about how those three spoons would affect my blood sugar, but I know that there was an impact. When I was living med-free, I would never eat outside of my scheduled meal time nor would I eat or drink something without calculating the carbohydrates. The biggest reservation I hold is based on the financial impact it would have on my monthly budget. Adding a couple of hundred dollars for diabetes expenses on top of daycare expenses would be a squeeze that I’m not ready to embrace.

So, presently, I am managing as best I can in the face of advice, insurance rules, and financial costs that encourage me to test my blood sugar much less than I do. However, I know the benefit of testing often and so I am still doing it, even if I am not advised to.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (12)
  • TerrellDLewis
    8 months ago

    I think it has a lot to do with the cost of the strips. I’m fortunate the VA gives me 50 strips every 3 months (every other day testing) because I’ve seen the price of them behind the counter at Walmart.

  • Phyllisa Deroze author
    8 months ago

    Yes, the price is extremely high. I’ve recently seen a Walmart brand (Reli) of strips for only $10 for 50.

  • 1efj4uj
    9 months ago

    EXPLANATION PLEASE-I have had diabetes for several years, my husband was the cook and measured and counted for the both of us-he had it too. after he died and I went shopping I knew I needed to eat less, even tho the food he cooked was healthy it evidently was too much for me and I gained a lot. I hate math! so I decided to eat a few dishes, cold and hot that I would like often-I have not got the patience to cook. I eat healthy. when I had problems with getting supplies I knew what I was eating. I felt confident that if I ate something I had had before the resulting glucose counts would be similar. it worked, evidently, as my vistis showed-went from 7.5 to 6.5 at that time. (Q) why don’t people do something like this when they do not have the ability to monitor? I can not be the only one this would work for. thanks!-hugs

  • Kelly Dabel, RD moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi 1efj4uj, Thanks for sharing! Your method sounds great and sounds like it is working well for you! Congratulations on lowering your A1c! Consistency is a great strategy for keeping your blood sugars regulated. It is worth mentioning that changes in physical activity, stress and illness, to name a few, can cause variability in blood sugar so it is still worth checking if you have the supplies available. Thanks again for sharing your experience here! Best, Kelly, Type2diabetes.com Community Moderator

  • sweetpea46
    9 months ago

    wal-mart carries relion meters. relion prime meter strips r $9. for 50 strips relion is only made for wal-mart

  • 1efj4uj
    9 months ago

    I am a very poor senior and have been able to have a plan with United Health where my supplies are covered. not trying to gloat but want you to know there are other ways to get help with this. even if working you can try to get help from the company your supplies come from or you may even need to find another health insurance if possible. if it is possible, you might try customer service after you find another that you like better. your present insurance may decide to help rather then loose you! best of luck!-hugs

  • Margot moderator
    9 months ago

    @1efj4uj thank you so much for sharing – I’m sure this will help many here! Great to hear you’ve been able to have a plan to have supplies covered! Thinking of you! Best, Margot, Type2Diabetes.com Team Member

  • 1efj4uj
    9 months ago

    just a note on strictness-I have read articles for people with diabetes that says that it is not good for the heart to be overly strict with carb counting for a long period of time. do not know the period of time they meant-but it said it could result in too much stress on the heart. can not recall the place of the article but “think” it was for people close to retirement or with history that would make this worrisome. you certainly do sound stressed! again-good luck!-hugs

  • glennasgarden
    9 months ago

    I totally understand how you feel about this Phyllisa. I was testing 4 times a day. Medicaid was paying for 100 test strips a month. Very recently they have changed it to 100 test strips every 3 months. I have gone through 2 appeals. Lost of course! I was doing very well managing my type 2 diabetes. My A1C is down to 6.5 as of a week ago. I have lost 10 pounds in the last year and my blood sugars are so good. I feel good. I have stopped taking one of the three diabetes pills that I was taking. I finally figured out after 10 years that I don’t need to eat so many carbs. I was always told 45 to 60 grams per meal so like a good patient i did what I was told to do. I have a goal set for myself to not eat more than 75 grams of carbs in one day. It works for me I have my doctors approval So now I am testing once a day after fasting in the morning and that is it. No more extra testing to see how I am doing throughout the day. No more good diabetes management and making the right decisions. No more testing if I feel like my blood sugar has dropped and if it has I won’t be able to test to see if it has gone back up to a better level after I have eaten some carbs. I have no choice! I am only allowed enough test strips to test once a day plus 10 extra so there are some times when I can rescue myself. What if the test strip fails and doesn’t work. That has happened to me twice this week. There is a reason why I am on Medicaid. I have many medical challenges. Diabetes is only one of them. I honestly feel like this is so wrong for insurance companies and Medicaid to do this to us. I believe in the long run it will cost them more money than they think they are saving right now.

  • Margot moderator
    9 months ago

    That must be so frustrating @glennasgarden – we really appreciate you sharing with us here, I know many have had similar difficult experiences :\ I’m glad you tried to appeal though so frustrating that it didn’t work! It sounds like you are doing all you can to best manage your type 2 diabetes even with this testing restriction. Have you looked into a different meter or spoken to your doctor about alternatives? I am sorry that you are going through this. Hopefully soon this will change and you will be able to get more again. Thinking of you.

    Warmly,
    Margot, Type2Diabetes.com Team Member

  • glennasgarden
    9 months ago

    My son bought me a different meter and affordable test strips to use in between when Medicaid won’t pay for the test strips I feel that I need to have in order to have good diabetes management. Medicaid will only pay for 100 strips every 90 days and only pays for one brand. Thanks for your concern Margot. Yes my dr was a part of each of my appeals and she is aware of this happening for all of her Type 2 Diabetes patients.

  • Margot moderator
    8 months ago

    @glennasgarden I’m so sorry that this is happening. I’m glad that your son has been able to help you find a bit of a solution for now, having the other meter and strips in between, though that is still so frustrating! I’m glad your doctor knows about this too. Thinking of you. Best, Margot, Type2Diabetes.com Team

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