Can’t afford your diabetes care?

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - More than 100 million Americans live with diabetes or pre-diabetes according to the CDC, and some can't afford the testing supplies and medication they need to live healthy lives.

Local experts say those people sometimes choose to ration their prescription or stop completely which could be dangerous and even deadly practice.

Between 2002 and 2013, the price of insulin per milliliter rose by 197 percent, from $4.34 per milliliter to $12.92 per milliliter, according to a 2016 study.

Kasie Jones-Holder works at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center and has met diabetics who sometimes have to choose between food, rent or their medicine.

Both of Jones-Holder's kids have low blood sugar and she says even the testing strips to check their glucose levels are getting expensive.

"Suddenly our insurance was no longer covering their strips," she said. "We were going from what used to cost $28 a month to now over $400. That was too hard for us. What we did is call around to the local pharmacies and started price comparing and seeing what we could do."

After searching a while Jones-Holder found the GE brand of test strips are an affordable option.

Lori Pettet is a Certified Diabetes Educator at St. Francis Medical Center and says people often tell her they can't afford their medications.

She says some decide to stretch their insulin supply by rationing it, others stop completely, but that can be very dangerous because the right dosage is needed to normalize a diabetic's blood sugar levels.

"If a patient is supposed to take 30 units of insulin and they only take 15 most likely their sugar is going to become elevated," Pettet said. "If your blood sugar is running 200 to 300 for a few months your risk for a heart attack or a stroke goes up dramatically. That can lead to death or an expensive hospital stay which is going to be a lot more than what the insulin is."

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Pettet suggests diabetics ask their doctor about assistance programs, coupons, and start with the conversation about getting the right prescription in your price range.

"Make sure you are all on the same page," Pettet said. "Whoever is prescribing those medications needs to be aware of your financial situation because the newest or the most ideal prescription may not be what you can afford."

Pettet also says there is over-the-counter insulin available at Walmart for $25 per vile but it acts differently than most insulins doctors prescribe.

"They have to be aware of the action of those insulins or they can cause low blood sugar and can get patients into difficulty that way," Pettet said. "Patients have to be much more regimented in when they eat, when they test."

A free educational resource that Jones-Holder recommends is the Diabetes Self-Management Program, which is one class a week for six weeks.

"The point of the DSMP is teaching them how to get into that habit," Jones-Holder said. "Everyday checking your blood, giving yourself insulin, eating healthy, doing physical activity, making action plans, and getting your family involved in it so that it's not such a lonely walk."

The next DSMP session starts May 30th from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and can sign up by calling 573-335-7846.

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