How to save money on blood glucose test strips
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between diabetes supplies and other expenses? It's a scary proposition, as we know that not being able to test your blood sugar can increase the risk of low blood sugar and affect your ability to manage diabetes properly.1
The high cost of diabetes
Did you know that medical costs for people with diabetes are more than twice as high as for people without diabetes? In fact:
- 30.3 million people have diabetes in the United States2 (that's 1 in every 10 people).
- Medical costs are 2x higher for people with diabetes vs. people without diabetes2.
A survey conducted by Wakefield Research of 500 U.S. adults, ages 26-64, with diabetes and 500 U.S. adults, ages 26-64, without diabetes revealed:
- 48% of surveyed adults living with diabetes have gone to extreme lengths to cover the cost of their diabetes management
- 22% accrue credit card debt
- 21% borrow money from family or friends
- 19% take money out of a savings or retirement account
- 69% of surveyed adults living with diabetes are concerned that they’ll need to work longer than they’d like in order to earn enough money to cover their healthcare costs, yet 62% are worried they may not physically be able to continue working due to their health issues
How to save on diabetes supplies
Given these challenges, what can you do if you find yourself tempted to cut back on your diabetes self-care? Here are 7 ideas that may help.
- Don't try to save money by skipping necessary blood sugar checks. You may wind up with a few extra dollars per day in your pocket, but your blood sugar can easily get back on the roller coaster.1 As a result, you're likely to feel pretty lousy and you may wind up testing more in order to get back on track. Add a trip to the emergency room, lost days at work and long-term damage to your health, and you haven't come out ahead.
- Find out if the manufacturers of any of the drugs you're taking offer patient assistance or discount programs.
- Get the maximum value from the blood sugar checks you perform. Your numbers don't mean anything unless you know how to interpret and act on the results. However, if you use your numbers to improve your blood sugar control, you may be able to save money in the long run by avoiding or minimizing the effects of long-term complications.
- Ask your doctor about ways to save on prescriptions—for diabetes and other medications. Ask about generic options or combination drugs, free samples and whether you can split pills.3 Perhaps there are older, less expensive brands on the market that will work for you.
- Seek out free education. Look into education or incentive programs offered by your insurance carrier or pharmacy. Or visit a health fair or expo sponsored by the American Diabetes Association or local hospital to learn about the latest treatments, get freebies and rebates, and walk away feeling motivated.
- Utilize the “needs vs. wants” matrix. Consider the importance of potential expenditures and decide where something should be on your priority list. Once you've mastered the matrix for cash flow, you can use it for time management, too.
It looks like this:
In the upper right corner, if you both love and need something (really love and really need), it's a no brainer if you can afford it. Moving clockwise, the lower right is less clear cut. You may love a skinny latte on the way to work, but you probably don't need it with a capital N. However, it's a pretty small expense, so you may be able to work it into the budget, at least some of the time.
If you neither love it nor need it (as in the bottom left), you may want to think about why you're even considering buying it. Are you just craving something new? Feeling bored? Momentarily distracted? Step away from the register.
Finally, the upper left—those things you need but don't really love. Toothpaste. Car repairs. And, of course, your diabetes test strips fall into this category. These are the things you know are coming, so it pays to shop around (and put more money into the Love side of things).
- Purchase diabetes supplies online, directly from the manufacturer. Some manufacturers, such as Accu-Chek, have online stores from which you can purchase safe, cost-effective supplies. If you buy from a third-party website or marketplace, be sure to validate the seller and product authenticity before purchasing.
How to buy blood glucose test strips online
As mentioned above, chasing online deals for test strips can be a hassle. And more often than not, the end result isn’t worth the chase. There might be hidden fees or the product itself doesn’t deliver what you thought. And when it comes to diabetes testing, results matter. With the Accu-Chek subscription, you get quality strips for a consistent low price from a trusted provider. But no matter where you buy, look for these features.
- Look for consistent pricing. Some online deals are specially priced to get you to buy at a low price for first-time purchasers, but the price will go back up after that first month of subscribing. It’s important to not chase online deals and to find a source that you can rely on to offer the same price month after month.
- Don’t fall for expired strips. No gimmicks here. Expiration dates on test strips definitely serve a purpose. They help ensure that you are getting an accurate reading when you test because the chemistry in the strips break down over time. Some distributors sell discounted strips online because they are very close to the expiration date or maybe even have already reached their expiration date. Yikes. When you buy Accu-Chek test strips here, you are guaranteed strips with at least a 6-month shelf life.
- Buy from trusted sources. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 95% of online pharmacies are illegitimate and unsafe.4 They could be selling counterfeit strips made to look like the real thing. You can verify an online pharmacy here. Or, you can buy directly from a manufacturer you trust.
How to save on diabetes care with an FSA
FSAs let you pull pre-tax dollars from your paycheck to spend on health-related expenses. Depending on how much you contribute, it can save you hundreds of dollars every year on diabetes management.
One of the easiest ways to use your FSA dollars is to start an Accu-Chek subscription5. You can use the money you’ve set aside to pay for test strips on a monthly basis, delivered to your door with free shipping.
If you don’t have an FSA yet, here’s everything you need to know about signing up, contributing to your account and spending your FSA dollars on healthcare expenses.
How to enroll in an FSA
The first step to saving on your health is finding out if you’re eligible. Lots of employers offer an FSA, and you might be eligible even if you don’t have health insurance.
Most providers let you sign up for an account at the beginning of the calendar year. All you need to do is submit some basic personal information, and you’re on your way to savings.
How to contribute to your FSA
When you sign up for an FSA, you’ll determine how much to deduct from your paychecks. FSAs use pre-tax dollars, so you won’t have to pay taxes on however much you contribute to your account.
Each year the IRS sets a limit for how much you’re allowed to contribute. In 2020, that amount is $2,750. If you maximize your contributions, that’s roughly $230 each month that you can set aside for healthcare expenses.
A couple warnings about your contributions
Be aware: once you decide how much to be taken out of each paycheck, there’s no way to change it. You can’t change the amount or cancel your contributions until the following year, so make sure you’re comfortable with the amount you’re contributing.
One exception to this rule is if you experience a qualifying life event. If something big happens in your life, like marriage or the birth of a child, you’ll be able to adjust your contributions.
It’s also worth noting that your employer owns your FSA account. If you leave your job or are terminated, you can’t reclaim the money you set aside. If you’re planning on a career change in the upcoming year, be careful how much money you put into your FSA.
How to use an FSA
If you pay for an eligible expense out of pocket, you can reimburse yourself with your FSA. Save your receipt and submit it through your provider’s online portal. Money will be moved from your FSA back into your pocket.
Even simpler, your provider might offer an FSA card. FSA cards are basically debit cards that are tied to your account. When you go to pay for eligible services or products, you can pay for it directly with your card. No need to worry about reimbursement!
What happens at the end of year
Unlike other savings accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs, the money you put in an FSA doesn’t roll over into the new year. That means that you’ll need to use all of the money that you’ve contributed this year or you’ll lose it.
There are a couple exceptions to this rule, but your employer might not offer them. You might be granted an extra two and a half months to use your FSA dollars from the previous year, or you might be able to roll over up to $500. Check with your employer to see if they offer either exception.
Since your FSA dollars don’t roll over, you’ll want to spend them before you lose them. Thankfully, there are a number of eligible medical, dental and vision expenses for you to consider.
Your FSA can cover a range of expenses, from doctor’s visits to surgeries. You can use it to pay for small expenses like bandages and sunscreen to larger expenses like new eyeglasses and home testing kits. Your spouse and child’s expenses are covered, too!
Here are just a few diabetes care items that can help you use your FSA dollars before they expire:
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1Ellingson L, Parkin C. On the bus or under the bus? The current healthcare system is endangering elderly diabetes patients. J Diabetes Metab Disord Control. 2015, 2(1): 00028. Available at: http://medcraveonline.com/JDMDC/JDMDC-02-00028.pdf. Accessed August 14, 2017.
3WebMD. Dos and don'ts for saving money on Rx drugs. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/saving-money-on-your-prescri.... Accessed August 14, 2017.
4“VIPPS.” National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, nabp.pharmacy/programs/vipps/.
5The Accu-Chek subscription is a monthly subscription. You are not eligible to participate in a subscription plan offered by Accu-Chek if you are enrolled in or have medical or prescription coverage through any government healthcare program, including but not limited to Medicare and Medicaid, or where otherwise prohibited by law. By purchasing a subscription you are a subject to our terms and conditions. Limit six 50-count strip vials per home delivery order.