Diabetics Cut Blood Sugar Testing and Office Visits

Some diabetics are making dangerous decisions when it comes to their health during this tough economic time.

Many patients are finding that the amount of testing supplies for diabetics that are covered by most insurance companies is not enough to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

So patients are having to make cutbacks of their own and that choice is not necessarily a safe one.

Dr. J. B. Boren has type one diabetes and he is supposed to test his blood sugar level five times a day.

But that means he needs 130 test strips and pin needles a month.  And his insurance will only pay for one hundred.

So Dr. Boren cuts back to three tests a day, or whenever he eats out and doesn't know the food's nutritional information.

"I've saved about $65 a month by cutting down on the number of tests that I do," said Boren.

Dr. Boren has a Ph. D. in Sports Medicine and knows how he can properly maintain his blood sugar levels with diet and exercise.

To keep his blood sugar level regulated, Dr. Boren cooks breakfast at home and brings his lunch.  That way, he knows exactly how many carbohydrates and sugars are in each meal.

"If I know what [my blood sugar] is going to be, then I skip that test in order to skip that cost," he said.

But doctors warn that cutting back on the recommended number of tests a day or skipping doctors visits can be dangerous... And even life threatening.

"If there has been some fundamental change in how their diabetes or one of the other problems they have," said Endocrinologist Dr. William C. Biggs."  "If their blood pressure has gone up or their having problems, then we miss out on that opportunity to make some improvements."

Dr. Biggs says the newest unhealthy trend is diabetics are skipping regular office visits.

"I think our patients tend to be stretching out their appointments," said Dr. Biggs. "Where normally you see someone every three months, many are calling a few weeks early and saying they can't make the appointment for one reason or another."

When patients do come in for their appointments, doctors are having to re-work their treatment plans using less expensive medications.

But that doesn't always work.

"The biggest problems come when we've already tried the less expensive medications and they're not controlled," said Dr. Biggs.

But Dr. Biggs says that when generic medications don't work, many are turning to less convenient insulin injections.

"Some patients on oral meds, for instance, can use insulin and very often insulin can be a less expensive alternative-- and still a very good alternative," he said.  "So we've had actually many patients choose to use insulin and that allows the fewer diabetes pills and lower their costs and still have good control."

For patients who must still use the more-expensive diabetes drugs, Dr. Biggs says they may be eligible for discounts from the drug makers, VA benefits, or the J.O. Wyatt clinic in Amarillo.

Before altering your diabetes treatment, Dr. Biggs says to check with your doctor to make sure it's safe to reduce testing and monitor your diet and exercise.