Diabetes Care On A Budget: 5 Effective Ways To Reduce Healthcare Costs


India has become the world’s most populous country having a population 1.486 billion people [1]. It is estimated that more than a quarter of the population is either diabetic or pre-diabetic [2]. This is a matter of concern as studies suggest that almost 5 to 10% of pre-diabetics convert into diabetics within a year [2]. This tremendous increase in the diabetes population has led to an escalated cost of treatment.

Moreover, the need to take medicines for a lifetime due to long-term complications also adds up the cost of treatment. Approximately 50 to 85% of people with diabetes develop long-term complications that need critical care and may even be hospitalized [3].

The person with diabetes pays almost double in health care as compared to the person that does not have diabetes [4] It can affect the overall quality of life and becomes a barrier in getting the care an individual needs.

The overall cost can be reduced through a conscious approach that includes 5 simple tips:

1. Get Health Insurance
Health insurance is an excellent way to save money, especially in case of an emergency. Most of the Indians do not have health insurance of any kind. This is because of a lack of awareness and confusion regarding policies. People with diabetes should buy an insurance plan that covers the cost of diabetes care.

It is very necessary to understand the details of every service and supply that will be covered under the policy. Make yourself aware of whether insurance is covering the following essentials:

-Devices such as insulin pumps
-Lab tests
-Cost of office visits
-Nutrition counseling

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2. Look For the Least Expensive Alternatives
It is very important to take the medications as per the prescription. The medications can not be changed at our convenience, unlike other commodities. However, they can be replaced with the least expensive medications having similar efficacy after consulting with a doctor.

Moreover, diabetes needs long-term care that requires frequent interaction with your doctor. It is very important to build a healthy relationship with your physician. It helps you to discuss your financial problem with ease. The physician may lend a helping hand by prescribing the least expensive medications without compromising the quality.

Raise the following questions to your doctor and choose the least expensive medications:

-Can generic medications be taken?
-Is there any option of choosing one pill or combination that may cost less?
-Can I get a higher dose of my medicine and split the pills into the correct dose?

The following measures help in reducing the overall cost of therapy:

-Ask your doctor to prescribe the medications and tests (if possible) that are covered under your insurance scheme
-Collate the prices of your prescription along with the available discounts from several pharmacies before buying. It is not necessary that the drug store that is near to you has the lowest price
-Look into pharmacy discounts or coupons to save on prescriptions. This can be done by searching online or asking pharmacists
-Enroll in a patient assistance program that provides free or low-cost medicine.
-Refer to an education specialist as they know better about the available resources and discounts
-Take membership of either offline or online platforms as they give several discounts

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3. Save On Healthy Eating
You may find multiple options for your diet across social media. However, there is no need to add any special foods to your meal plan. A simple home-made balanced diet helps in cutting the overall cost and includes:

-Planning meals in advance
-Prefer cooking your own food over packaged or restaurant food
-Bringing lunch to work instead of buying it
-Buying food in bulk, and opting for generic brands instead of higher-priced brands
-Looking for coupons, membership, and rewards cards while buying food ingredients

Here are 7 Indian recipes that help in lowering blood sugar.

4. Consider Telemedicine
Telemedicine refers to the exchange of medical information from one location to another using a digital medium. It has multiple applications which include wireless tools, e-mail, video call, and smartphones to track health status.

The use of telemedicine has proven to be cost-effective without compromising the quality of health care during COVID-19. As per one study conducted during a prolonged lockdown, 82% of the patients with diabetes were found to be happy with the adoption of newer technologies and changes in glycemic control [3].

Patients with diabetes need multiple interactions with physicians to improve health outcomes and prevent long-term complications. It can prove to be a convenient tool to reduce the overall cost of managing diabetes. Although, it is not a replacement of actual face-to-face interactions but proves to be beneficial in non-emergency/routine care and in cases where services do not require direct patient–doctor interactions.

The following aspects of telemedicine can help reduce the overall cost by preventing the complications:

-Use of diabetes-related mobile apps that focus on self management, lifestyle modification, and motivation for medication adherence
-Consulting online for routine check-up
-Monitoring blood glucose at home
-Wearing devices that track overall health

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5. Buy In Bulk
The medicines for diabetes need to be taken for a long period of time. So, buying in bulk for several months instead of a week of therapy helps in saving money. There might be a small difference in cost but the saved amount adds up rapidly as the medicines are taken frequently.

Several companies also have special discounts and coupons for bulk products. People should make themselves aware of that while purchasing in bulk.

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How Not to Cut Costs?
The medication adherence is very necessary to manage diabetes. People with diabetes sometimes avoid taking medicines or reduce the frequency to save money. This approach can cause serious complications which can even end up costing much more. Avoid the following things in an attempt to save money:

-Stopping the medicines you need
-Switching to any other medicines without consulting to the doctor
-Avoiding routine check-ups
-Skipping doses
-Splitting pills that aren’t meant to be split
-Reusing the strips of glucose monitoring
-Sharing insulin injections or fingerstick devices

Diabetes is chronic and can turn out to be severe if not managed properly. The disease needs lifestyle modification, regular glucose monitoring and frequent checkups along with medication adherence. It can have a huge financial impact on the patient and his/her family. The total healthcare costs can be reduced through a wise and vigilant approach without compromising health and quality of life.

The use of technologies such as smartphones, portable devices, and online consultations helps in saving money along with preventing complications. Telemedicine is well suited for diabetes because it mostly requires interpretation of blood sugar that can be measured at home by the patient.

(The article is written by Kanchan Vats, Team Lead, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Chhatterjee Rhitu, India’s population passes 1.4 billion — and that’s not a bad thing [Updated June 08 2023] Goats and Soda. Available from: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/06/08/1180454049/india-is-now-the-worlds-most-populous-nation-and-thats-not-necessarily-a-bad-thi
2. Tabak AG, Herder Christian, Rathmann Wolfgang, Brunner EJ, and Kivimaki Mika, Prediabetes: A high-risk state for developing diabetes [Updated June 16 2012] Lancet. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891203/
3. Kesavadev Jothydev and Mohan Viswanathan, Reducing the Cost of Diabetes Care with Telemedicine, Smartphone, and Home Monitoring [April 21 2023] Springer Link. Available From: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41745-023-00363-y
4. How to Save Money on Diabetes Care [April 18 2023], Center For Disease Control And Prevention. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/save-money.html

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