The Cost of Testing

cc jessicafm

The New York Times ran an article last week on the high cost of diabetes—not for society, but for the individual.

Protecting Yourself From the Cost of Type 2 Diabetes [ ]
Published: November 12, 2010
Diabetes patients spend $6,000 on average a year on care, one reason only 25 percent of diabetics get the treatment they need.

Oh wow. A useful article about the financial burden of diabetes. Then I read further…
The article asks what steps can patients take to reduce the cost of diabetes?
Older drugs are less expensive. Many are available as generics. Their efficacy has been proven over time. OK, so far.
Sounds good. There’s a cheaper source, perhaps. No. Here’s what the article said:

The best way to reduce the cost of supplies is to keep your blood sugar levels under control so that you have to test less often, advised Dr. Lipman. “If you can get your testing down to once a day or even three times a week, you can save money that way,” he said.

What the…? But testing frequently is how people with diabetes know if their blood sugar levels are under control. The reading from yesterday or last week doesn’t say anything about what’s going on in my body right now. That was then; this is now.

Oh my! Test three times a week? Current blood sugar levels help us decide what to eat, when to exercise, even when to take medication and how much. These are the things we do to keep our blood sugar levels under control and avoid life threatening complications. Without a current blood sugar reading we are (some of us literally) taking a shot in the dark.

Telling people to test less frequently is not the answer.

The solution is to get medical insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid to cover the cost of adequate testing supplies—not just a minimum. Otherwise we perpetuate penny-wise pound-foolish thinking and medical practice.

Policy makers (insurance and governmental) need to make the means available to affordably manage this disease or else we all will pay a higher price in the end.