Diabetes Without Health Insurance: Resources to Help You Get What You Need

If you are living with diabetes and you don’t have health insurance or you are insured but living below the poverty line, you need to know about these resources.

couple with calculator looking upsetThere are many resources available to help you afford diabetes-related medication and supplies. (Photo: 123rf)

Living with the day-to-day demands of diabetes is challenging enough but if you don't have health insurance to reduce the costs of your diabetes-related medications and supplies, it can be downright terrifying.

Insulin isn’t something people with diabetes take because it’s helpful—insulin is what keeps us alive. Without it, we perish. Not maybe. Not in a few years. We would die within a few days. Period.

Fortunately, even in the United States where the health insurance and prescription medicine system is  complicated and expensive, there are plenty of resources to help those who aren't covered by health insurance or lack the funds to buy the insulin that keeps them alive.

“It has become increasingly difficult for people with diabetes to navigate the increasingly complex world we live in,” explains OnTrack Diabetes editorial board member Amy Hess-Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE.

“Which diabetes supplies are covered, when they are not covered, how to locate more affordable options while still maintaining good diabetes self-care...it’s complicated and can be completely  overwhelming.”

Hess-Fischl encourages patients to reach out to healthcare providers, drug and technology manufacturers, and to your local pharmacist to better understand what resources you may qualify for. To learn more about federal programs that may be able to assist you, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) website. You can also use this federal poverty line calculator to determine where your income falls.  

Blood Glucose Test-Strips Without a Prescription or Insurance

These three companies are independent (not associated with any company in “BigPharma”), and offer a variety of test-strip prescription programs based on how many times per day you test your blood sugar. If you only need 2 strips per day, you can pay less than $20 a month for the strips you need. If you test 8 or more times a day, you can find “unlimited strips” programs for nearly the same price you’d pay ($40) as a copay with insurance for a very limited number of strips. Regardless, you'll save money and the test strips will be shipped right to your door.

  • OneDrop: OneDrop’s meter and test-strip program also comes with 24/7 coaching with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) and an award-winning app that easily connects to your meter and helps you understand your blood sugars in relation to your goals.

OneDrop also has a package that works with CompanionMedical’s InPen. The InPen is an insulin pen that communicates via bluetooth with OneDrop’s app on your phone.

  • MySugar offers a bundle that includes unlimited test-strips for an Accu-Chek Guide meter, a diabetes management app, and access to CDEs.
  • Livingo's meter and test-strip program comes with expert coaches to help you with blood sugars, nutrition, and exercise, as well as a variety of text messages that help you identify when you’re consistently out of your goal blood sugar range.
  • DiaThrive keeps it simple—order your strips based on how many you need and touch-base again when you need more strips.

Patient Assistance Programs for Traditional Glucose Meters

When it comes to glucometers and test-strips from the big manufacturers, it’s usually pretty easy to get the actual meter for free, but getting test-strips at a truly affordable price is more complicated.

  • Freestyle (Abbott): Test-strips, glucometer
  • Accu-chek (Roche): Test-strips, glucometer & subscription program
  • OneTouch (LifeScan): Test-strips, glucometer
  • Contour (Bayer): Test-strips glucometer or call: 1-800-348-8100
  • ReliOn (Walmart): Check-out Walmart’s inexpensive glucometer & test-strips

Patient Assistance & Savings Programs for Insulin & Other Meds

To ensure that you are finding financial assistance for every program you may qualify for, be sure to look at the pharmaceutical patient assistance program and the link for each individual drug as well.

Also note, DiaTrive reported (August 2018) there have been recent changes in pharmaceutical savings programs and discount cards that previously helped people with diabetes, and insurance, afford their medications. Many insurers are no longer counting these coupons/discounts toward your deductible. While these changes will impact those with insurance the most, it's important that you discuss the amount you’re saving, or spending, with your local pharmacy to see if any of these changes impact you.

Novo Nordisk: Novolog, Tresiba, Fiasp, Victoza, Ozempic, etc.

Sanofi: Lantus, Ademlog, Toujeo, etc.

Eli Lilly: Humalog, Basalgar, Trulicity, Jardiance, Humulin N, Humulin R, etc.

MannKind: Afrezza inhaled (rapid-acting) insulin

Walmart: If you still use older insulins like NPH (Humulin N) or Regular (Humulin R), visit your local Walmart pharmacy to see if you qualify for their $25/vial insulin program.

Insulin Pumps & Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM)

Finding information on patient assistance programs for insulin pumps and CGMs is much harder than simple ol’ glucometers and test-strips.

Pumps and CGMs are expensive, even for those who do have insurance. While I’ve heard mixed reports from patients and CDEs on actually receiving financial assistance for pumps and CGMs, I reached out to these companies directly (because it was difficult to find information on their websites!) for exactly how a patient in need should go about this process.

  • Medtronic’s Minimed & CGM patient assistance
  • DexCom’s CGM does not appear to offer any patient assistance programs 
  • Insulet’s OmniPod: Call 1-800-591-3455, select “Option 3” to speak with a representative
  • Tandem’s tSlim: Call 1-877-801-6901 to discuss options with a representative
  • Abbott’s Freestyle Libre patient assistance for those on Medicare or call 1- 855-632-8658 to speak with a representative
  • CR3 Diabetes Association: This non-profit donates diabetes supplies, including pumps and CGMs
  • Animas: These pumps are no longer available.

Independent Patient Assistance Programs

These organizations offer different types of patient assistance based on your income level. They are each unique so be sure to take a look and see how your needs meet with what they offer.

Utilize Facebook for Buying, Selling, and Trading Diabetes-Related Goods

People with diabetes like you and me are trading and selling their unwanted diabetes technology and supplies in Facebook groups—a way to help other people living with diabetes make supplies more affordable.There are dozens of groups on this popular social media platform. Start your search using the Facebook search tool with this phrase: "Buying & Selling Diabetic Supplies".

Living with and paying for diabetes is challenging, no doubt. But there are resources to help you. Set aside some time to dig into this information until you find the help you need!

Updated on: January 16, 2019
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