I know it’s expensive, because I paid for it out of my own pocket for more than four years while I was an uninsured diabetic. What few companies willing pick me up, only picked me up at an exorbitant cost because of my “pre-existing condition.” It was a constant struggle and an up hill battle I never thought I’d win. Eventually, I graduated college and was offered a job that gave me benefits – despite my “pre-existing condition.”
Even now, even with insurance, diabetes is still expensive. Case in point, I just mailed off a check to my endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) for what my insurance company didn’t cover. Since being uninsured, I’ve made it a habit to go through my itemized bills so I can understand all of the charges listed. My mouth hit the floor as I skimmed my bill.
$17 for a finger prick?! Seriously? $17??
I was absolutely shocked. For those of you who may not realize, a finger prick takes all of five seconds. It only requires a tiny drop of blood – no vials or tubes full of blood to test 21 different ways. It’s a simple stick which returns a bloodsugar reading – in most cases – under five seconds. To put it more into perspective, I prick my finger anywhere from 5-8 times a day. If someone paid me $17 to check my bloodsugar, I wouldn’t need my second job.
I was astounded that someone could sleep at night after charging me $17 for such a simple, miniscule test. The prick at the doctor doesn’t even require latex gloves to be worn. I believe this sort of cost is why healthcare costs are through the roof right now. I carry my own test kit in my purse. Why couldn’t I use my own kit when in the doctor’s office?
If my meter is accurate enough to read my 31 bloodsugar last week at 1 a.m., and accurate enough to read my subsequent 312 bloodsugar at 7 a.m., then why isn’t it accurate enough to read my bloodsugar level at the doctor’s office?
As an uninsured diabetic, I was turned away from doctor’s offices more than once because I couldn’t pay several hundred dollars up front. I wasn’t seen by an endocrinologist the length of time I was uninsured. I had to apply for assistance programs for free or discounted medicine and syringes. I used a total of seven different meters based on what free strips I had at the time. I had to quit using Humalog (a fast-acting insulin) and switch to an over-the-counter brand at Wal-Mart (which worked, but not as well as Humalog). Thankfully, companies offered help. Thankfully, diabetic friends gave me strips, syringes, lancets and coupons. Thankfully, Wal-Mart sold a $25 bottle of Regular insulin. There were some times when I went without my Lantus (24-hour insulin taken once daily), but I made it. I made it because if you look, there is help out there. It may not be what you want, and it may not be ideal or even convenient, but it’s there. You just have to look.
The thing is, now that I have insurance, I have peace of mind. I go to bed at night and sleep soundly knowing if something happens, I will be all right; I will be taken care of. But even still, I cannot understand the high price of health care. Yes, I get some of it.
I am smart enough to understand the costs of machines and tests and even the cost of facilities and salaries. I know those costs must be supplemented somehow, but $17 for a finger prick? Really?
Healthcare is on the forefront of people’s minds right now after the recent passage of a health care reform bill. While I refuse to publicly enter that debate, I do think there are small things that over time, can make a difference. For instance, I wore an iPro for five days. It monitors bloodsugar levels around the clock. Combined with my own records of foods and activities, its purpose is to determine patterns of highs and lows. Instead of using my own meter, I was given a meter by the doctor that I was “required” to use alongside the iPro. When I returned the meter with the iPro five days later, I was told the meter couldn’t be used again.
That’s about a $70 cost that as far as I’m concerned was wasted. Why can’t that meter be recycled or reused in some way. It is possible to clear the memory on those machines. (I know because I did it as a teenager once after I lied to my mom about a bloodsugar). Take examples like this, along with $17 for a finger prick, and then wonder why health care costs so much.
I know it’s expensive, costs must be offset and I will even go as far as to say I understand the billions of dollars involved in pharmaceutical testing and clinical drug trials. But seriously, there has to be a better way to make this affordable. I’m simply having a hard time condoning close to $20 for a simple finger stick.