By Lisa Zamosky
Chronic diseases like diabetes require ongoing and consistent medical care. Holding onto health insurance if you’re managing a diabetic condition, or finding coverage if you don’t have insurance, often proves to be a critical part of maintaining good health.
In fact, a recent study of nearly 3,400 low-income adults published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that people who had short lapses in health insurance coverage (Medicaid coverage, in this case) or no coverage at all during the three years of the study, were less likely to receive preventive medical services, such as important diabetes-related screening tests and flu vaccinations.
It’s hardly surprising to learn that sporadic health insurance coverage would limit someone’s access to medical care. Generally speaking, caring for yourself if you have diabetes is pricey. According to the American Diabetes Association, the average annual cost of medical care for people with diabetes is ,649.
Diabetes Care and Paying for Coverage
I talked with Erin Moaratty, chief of external communications with the Patient Advocate Foundation, a national nonprofit that helps consumers navigate the healthcare system. Given that diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases – more than 23 million people in the United States are diabetic – I wanted to learn more about the options available to those struggling to pay for their medical care.
Unfortunately, she told me, “There are very limited resources for those with diabetes who are uninsured.”
But limited resources doesn’t necessarily mean that none are available. She offered some suggestions for those with diabetes looking for ways to cover the cost of their care that are well worth mentioning.
It’s critical for people with diabetes to regularly test their blood sugar levels and continue to take medications that keep their diabetes in check. If you have either exceeded your insurance benefits or have no coverage at all, Moaratty suggests looking into whether you qualify for a pharmaceutical drug program.
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance and Needymeds.org are two resources that connect people with programs that aid in gaining access to prescription medications. In addition, on Needymeds.org you’ll find listings of state-based programs that cater to the underinsured.
Many times on this blog, I have mentioned the Pre-Existing Health Insurance Plans (PCIP) available as a result of health reform to anyone with a medical condition who has been uninsured for at least six months. These programs have been underutilized but are providing a real lifeline to people who have taken advantage of them. You can find information on the programs in your state at: www.pcip.gov.
Finally, Moaratty says, “The Patient Advocate Foundation provides assistance to diabetic patients, helping them navigate the system and find the resources, insurance and/or funding that will help them continue care.” In addition, the organization just launched a diabetes prevention page worth checking out.
Moaratty also suggests exploring COBRA coverage if you’ve lost your job (just be forewarned that in most cases it’s extremely expensive). And, if your spouse has insurance through his or her employer, make sure you check into whether you can join that plan if you’ve recently lost coverage.
Finally, remember that adult children up to age 26 are now eligible to stay on their parents’ insurance plan under the health reform law. That new benefit has helped 2.5 young adults who previously were without insurance to obtain coverage.
Have you found ways to manage your diabetes without breaking the bank? If so, please share your experience with us in the comments below.