Can you afford diabetes?

Understand the Physical and Financial Cost of Diabetes

By Lois Gerst, RN, BSN, CDE, Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator
Virtua Nutrition and Diabetes Care

Currently, diabetes affects more than 30 million people in the United States, and that number continues to grow. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that medical costs and lost work and wages for people with diagnosed diabetes totaled $327 billion, up 33% over a 5-year period. And that’s just the financial impact. When diabetes remains uncontrolled, high blood glucose can lead to devastating long-term complications.

This critical information about the cost of diabetes care can help save your health—as well as your life savings.

The financial cost of diabetes

Health care laws and available coverage have changed dramatically in the last few years. Controlling diabetes requires expensive blood-sugar testing supplies, medications, and visits to a primary doctor as well as specialists. The CDC notes that people diagnosed with diabetes incur on average $16,750 annually in medical expenses. That’s about 2.3 times the medical expenses of a person without diabetes. 

  • Blood sugar test strips, which cost up to $1,500 per year, are usually covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance when you have a diagnosis of diabetes.
  • Prescription medications are the greatest contributor to cost of managing diabetes. They are not always fully covered by insurance, so it’s helpful to know if generic substitutes are available. Some pharmaceutical companies offer co-pay assistance or other programs to help reduce the cost for patients with low or limited income. 
  • Co-pays for primary care and specialty visits may vary, and you may have a deductible to meet as well. It’s important to call your insurance company (the phone number is on the back of your insurance card) to determine your out-of-pocket costs.

The physical cost of diabetes

If you have diabetes, and you don’t seek treatment or can’t afford it, the physical effects can be devastating.

  • Chronic high blood sugar damages all blood vessels and nerves in the body. The most common long-term complication is damage to the large blood vessels, which can result in heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.  
  • Damage to tiny blood vessels, especially in the eye and kidney, can result in blindness and kidney disease or kidney failure.  
  • High blood sugar can lead to gum disease. Good oral hygiene and twice-yearly visits to the dentist can help prevent this condition. 
  • People with diabetes are far more likely to have a foot or leg amputated than other people. Nerve damage in the extremities—especially the feet—can make a person more susceptible to injuries (because they can’t feel the pain). Even blisters or callouses can turn into serious wounds that increase a person’s risk for severe infection and amputation. It’s vitally important to take very good care of your feet if you have diabetes and check them regularly for problems.

Get help now to get diabetes under control

For more information on how to prevent and manage diabetes and for assistance determining your insurance coverage or acquiring financial assistance, call 888-847-8823 and ask to speak to a Virtua diabetes educator.

Virtua Nutrition and Diabetes Care offers personal diabetes self-management education to assist patients and families who need help managing diabetes. 

Updated April 20, 2021

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