People with Diabetes Tend to Overestimate the Cost of Supplies by 4X, Study Says

According to a recent study, people with diabetes and insurance may be missing out on some cost savings simply because they aren’t paying enough attention to what their diabetes supplies cost. The research also shows that many Americans with diabetes are underinsured or that their doctors are underprescribing some of their diabetes supplies.

The new research, conducted by Ascensia Diabetes Care, a leading diabetes care company and the maker of CONTOUR® NEXT BGM and test strips, suggests that the problem starts with a lack of blood glucose monitoring test strips being prescribed to patients to manage their diabetes.

In their survey of 750 type-2 diabetics, they discovered that over half of people need or want more test strips than are prescribed to them and are purchasing extra test strips at least once a month. A whopping 79 percent were topping up their prescriptions at least every two to three months.

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These extra test strips are in some cases necessary for insulin-dependent diabetics, but they are useful in any case to help ensure that people with diabetes understand what’s going on with their blood sugar and can react appropriately.

Plus, blood sugar testing doesn’t go perfectly every time, meaning that one test may sometimes require two or three test strips because something went wrong with the first one. Sometimes this is a user error and other times it’s a problem with the test strip, but, either way, it means people with diabetes often need more test strips than they’re prescribed.

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“While there is a stronger rationale for blood glucose monitoring in people with type 2 diabetes who are using insulin, we believe it is genuinely valuable for everyone with type 2 diabetes, as it enables them to see how their blood glucose levels react to food, medication and exercise,” says Mary Puncochar, Head of US Region, at Ascensia Diabetes Care. “With such a large percentage of people topping up their prescribed allocation of BGM test strips, our research indicates that many people with type 2 diabetes would like to monitor more regularly than their insurance allows for, suggesting they see a benefit in having more information about their blood glucose levels to help them manage their diabetes.”

The study also showed that people with diabetes overestimate how much their testing supplies cost by about four times. On average, they estimated over-the-counter test strips to cost $1.69 each when they actually cost between 40 and 70 cents each depending on brand and location. You might not think this matters, but it may mean that for some people with diabetes, it’s cheaper to pay out of pocket for extra test strips rather than trying to go through insurance.

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“Diabetes is an expensive life-long condition and managing the way through the maze of healthcare costs can be confusing for people. Being aware of the real cost empowers the consumer, enabling them to make an informed decision about the best way to pay for crucial diabetes supplies they need to help them manage their condition,” says Puncochar. “Our research suggests that people are significantly overestimating the cost of purchasing test strips out of pocket, thinking it could be up to four times as much. For those with insurance that has a high co-pay, there might be times when cash or out-of-pocket could be the cheaper option for them.”

Roughly 12 million people with type 2 diabetes in the United States use a blood glucose monitor (BGM) to test their blood sugar levels. This is a huge number of people who may be affected by underinsurance or underprescribing of their diabetes testing supplies, and they could also be negatively impacted by their own misunderstandings of the prices of these items.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Piman Khrutmuang

It only takes a little extra research to find out what your test strips could cost through insurance versus out of pocket, but for many people with diabetes who are already tired, burnt out, and confused, it’s just too much. Ascensia Diabetes Care encourages people to go to to learn more about the most cost-effective options for obtaining extra test strips.

We hope that this research can help encourage doctors to prescribe their patients more test strips, insurance companies to cover more diabetes testing supplies, and people with diabetes to take a moment to look into what their test strips could cost if they paid out of pocket.

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