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Study: Out-of-pocket costs for patients with type 1 diabetes top $2,500 a year

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes spend an average of $2,500 a year out-of-pocket to treat the disease but, surprisingly, insulin isn’t always the biggest expense.

A new study discovered that insulin pumps, syringes and continuous glucose monitors accounted for a large share of out-of-pocket costs. Researchers at Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott children’s Hospital found that families of children with diabetes spend the most on diabetes-related supplies, averaging $823 per year in out-of-pocket costs compared to $445 for adult patients.

The results, published by JAMA Internal Medicine and the site News Medical Life Sciences, were based on national data of 65,199 patients, ages 1 to 61 in 2018 who received private insurance coverage through an employer. Data included records for 7,842 children.

Part of the reason children generally have higher supply costs is because 4 of 5 children in the study relied upon insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, or both, compared with just over half of adults.

Children may be afraid of needles or adolescents forget about taking insulin, explains Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician and the study’s lead author.

“These technologies can improve quality of life and improve diabetes control for all patients,” Chua said, “but can be especially important to families of children.”

Meanwhile, there may be some good news to report in the fight to control sky-rocketing insulin costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that beginning in 2021, many elderly Medicare beneficiaries will soon pay no more than $35 for a one-month supply of insulin.

Anne Cloward, a Portland resident and fourth-generation diabetic, shares her tips on managing costs in a Voices for Affordable Health video. Take a look.

Do you or someone you love have diabetes? Tell us how your costs have changed over the years.