5 Ways to Cut the Cost of Diabetes Treatment

It's expensive to manage diabetes. Even those with health insurance find themselves scrambling to pay unreimbursed co-pays for glucose testing strips, oral medications, and insulin.

Many patients and caretakers find themselves asking this essential question: Can the cost be reduced without compromising your health? Here, experts weight in to provide five tips on how to spend less, be healthier, and reduce the risk of complications from diabetes.

1. The biggest step you can take is to get your weight under control, which starts with eating sensible meals. When people are no longer overweight or obese,  type 2 diabetes may well go into remission.  "Invest in your lifestyle by eating a healthy diet," says Ericka Arrecis, RD, of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at New York Presbyterian Medical Center in New  York City. "When you are at the right weight, it's almost a guarantee that you will either need a much smaller dose of medication for diabetes or maybe not need any at all."

Not only will you need less of your medication, you'll need less medications for conditions such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, too, since these disorders also improve when a person loses weight.

2. Find a form of exercise that you like and that you won't abandon. Exercise actually intensifies the effect of diabetes medications, so sticking with a fitness program also may reduce the amount of medication you need, thus reducing your monthly expenses for it. As a side benefit, exercise means stress reduction; so you'll start to feel calmer.

3. Consider generics, says Matt Freeby, MD, endocrinologist at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at New York Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. "You can save anywhere from 50 to 75 percent off the cost of brand name medications," Freeby says. "Generics are the same as the brand names and the generics I prescribe are as good as brand names." Of course,  get your doctor's approval before starting to use of any medication--generic or otherwise.

4. Use mail order pharmacies, suggests Freeby. Most of the major health insurance carriers partner with a mail order pharmacy, he says. Look at your coverage plan, review the pharmacy coverage, and see if it's possible to start ordering by mail. Even insulin can be delivered by mail--it's sent in insulated containers with an ice pack so it stays cold.

5. Enlist the services of a diabetes educator. Most insurance carriers cover group or individualized education by a diabetes educator, Freeby says. And the payback can be terrific. You can glean invaluable advice on how and what to eat to maintain optimum blood sugar levels and make you feel strong and energized.