Government Eliminating Test Strip Subsidy for Diabetics?

The Australian government has limited test strip subsidies for some diabetics, but there's been no change to how the U.S. government is handling them.

  • Published 23 August 2016

Claim

The government is eliminating a subsidy that helps diabetics acquire blood glucose test strips.

I would like to highlight the government removing the subsidy for blood test strips. Diabetics need very frequent blood testing 5+ times a day. The cost of 100 strips is $70-$90. Outcome: reduced blood glucose testing and more hospital admissions from hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic (high blood sugar or low blood sugar) reactions.

Collected via e-mail, August 2016

Rating

Mostly False
About this rating

What's True

The Australian government eliminated test strip subsidies for most Type 2 diabetics who are not insulin-dependent.

What's False

There have been no changes to the U.S. government's Medicare coverage for diabetics.

Origin

Diabetics need to stay constantly aware of the levels of glucose in their blood, and they typically do so by pricking themselves in the finger and testing a drop of blood using a glucose meter several times a day. Keeping blood sugar levels in normal ranges ensures that diabetics don’t encounter many of the serious health complications associated with the disease.

It is therefore understandable that the prospect of losing access to test strips would cause alarm among diabetics, one that was set ringing when the Australian government eliminated a test strip subsidy for non-insulin dependent diabetics. However, despite rumors that have wafted across the Pacific Ocean, the United States government is not dropping any current coverage for diabetics who are Medicare subscribers.

Jack Cheevers, spokesperson for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told us that Medicare’s coverage for diabetics has not changed. Medicaid benefits are administered by individual states, and in all states except Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi, test strips are covered by Medicaid and/or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In Arkansas, children are covered through CHIP, but in Kentucky and Mississippi, children are not covered or are given limited coverage, respectively.

The Australian government, as of 1 July 2016, stopped subsidizing test strips for people who have Type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes and who are not on insulin. Australians who fall under that category have six months to adjust, and within that time span they can purchase a six-month supply of subsidized test strips. After that, they can get unlimited six-month extensions if a doctor deems it clinically necessary.

Other than for diabetics on Medicare and Medicaid coverage, the U.S. government does not offer a subsidy for diabetic test strips.

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