Diabetes test strips: $87.99 — or $12.99, or $9 — for 50. Cheaper without insurance? Quite possibly.

Filed Under: Costs, Patients

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Summary: We have turned our attention to crowdsourcing the prices of diabetes test strips. Early results are in, and  we are seeing as much as $87.99 or $25 for a box of 50. Best price so far: $9 for 50 at Wal-Mart, or $12.99 for 50, with the iPhone (thanks, @T1Runner !) Also, it looks like what we’ve learned elsewhere: you might be better off not using your insurance. That’s right, it can be cheaper to pay cash.

 

 


“Cheaper to get them online than through the pharmacy with my insurance” was the comment from one of the early contributors, who spent $25 for a box of 50 strips.

Another also spent $25 for a box of 50 strips. The comment: ‘I can get the test strips cheaper, out of pocket at Costco and Walmart if I buy 100. My father has Kaiser Advantage gets the same strips (3 month supply) for free. This is not even a 30 day supply, I need 60 (90 right now) normally.”

Updates: From the Diabetes Social Media tweetchat October 1, from @T1Runner:  “http://www.ihealthlabs.com/glucometer/ihealth-align/ 12.99 for 50! Ihealth Iphone meter #DSMA

From comments on our partner KPCC’s web site:

This: “I am fortunate that my current insurance covers my test strips – when I have to change to Covered California I hope that they will do the same.. I wanted to bring up a point relative to the cost of the strips. Often I think that people do not test as often as they should because the strips are too expensive. Check with your doctor to see if you can get them through mail order (or another pathway) to minimize the cost.”

And this: “Walmart sells the Relion Prime meter for $16.24 and the strips are $9.00 per 50. That is the best pricing I have found. And just so people know, all of the different brands of meters are required to work within set specifications. My Relion meter is just as good as any of the higher priced meters. I am a diabetic (Type 1) and have had to self pay for the past 9 years. Diabetes is not cheap.”

These were early comments from our #PriceCheck project, crowdsourcing prices with our partners at KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC/Southern California Public Radio in Los Angeles, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Neither community member left an email address for us to contact, so we’ve got a few questions: how much does it cost using insurance? Is the second commenter insured or not? How does this work with your deductible, your health savings account?

Diabetes relates to the way your body uses blood sugar or glucose. If you have diabetes, either Type 1 or Type 2, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, and that can lead to complications. (Here’s a nice Mayo Clinic explainer on diabetes.)

A bit about diabetes and test strips

Diabetics commonly measure their blood glucose level with a meter and a test strip.  That testing level tells whether their glucose levels are in range or not, and thus whether they need to use medications. The test strip has chemicals that react with the glucose in the blood; measurements can take place multiple times in a day.

Prices for the test strips, which are disposable,  can vary widely, from $87.99 for a box of 50 Accu-Check Smartview strips at Walgreens, to  $49.99 for a box of 100 Walgreens brand strips at Walgreens — or, if your insurance covers them, perhaps you get them at no charge. We have heard prices ranging from 25 cents to $1 per test strip.

So here’s our ask for you: Go to the PriceCheck page, and share your test strip prices. We’d like to know where you bought them, who your insurer is — and how much the sticker price was, how much insurance paid and how much you paid. You can use the comment box  to give details. It’s also possible to share about insulin. Let us know what your costs are, and your coping strategies.

On the right-hand side of the page, you can search our results.

Note: For right now, you can share from anywhere, but you can search only in California. That may change, so stay tuned.