A gentleman brought up an issue this week that I know is an issue for many people: The cost of insulin for diabetics. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that 25 percent of people over the age of 65 have diabetes and are on insulin for control. Yes, Medicare Part D plans tend to not cover insulin well, with the average copay being between $20-$150 a month. Many people are on more than one type of insulin. You can see that these copays could add up significantly for seniors on a fixed income, already paying for Medicare, supplemental insurance, and a prescription drug plan.

So what can you do?

First, the Butler County Department on Aging would like to remind every senior that Medicare Part D plans change every year. They change their plan prices and their formularies. It is very important for every senior to search Medicare Part D plans every year during open enrollment to determine which plan will cover your medications most cost-effectively. Open enrollment begins in October every year and runs through the first week of December to choose a plan for the following calendar year. The Sedgwick County Extension Office, El Dorado Senior Center, and Rose Hill Senior Center have Senior Health Insurance Counselors of Kansas (or SHICK) volunteers that are trained to help seniors evaluate prescription drug coverage each year. But, keep in mind that if your prescriptions change during the year, you are stuck with that plan, even if your new medications are not covered, until the next open enrollment period.

Where else can you get help? Each drug manufacturing company has what they call a Patient Assistance Program. This is an application for help affording your prescriptions. These can be found at each of the drug manufacturer’s websites. You can also ask your physician for assistance with the Patient Assistance Applications. Normally, the applications must be signed by your doctor and accompanied by a prescription. Many of these have income guidelines and they all vary by the drug and by the manufacturer. But if you are having trouble affording your prescriptions, this is an avenue to explore to see if you qualify for assistance with your copays.

Another option is a free or sliding fee scale medical clinic. Hunter Health Clinic and GraceMed in Wichita are also options for people struggling with the cost of prescriptions and health care.

Many complications are caused by diabetics “conserving” their insulin to avoid the high copays and cost of the medications needed to control it. These complications can include kidney failure, loss of eye sight, neuropathy, and even limb loss. If you are looking for ways to control your diabetes that could reduce your insulin dependence or that can help you determine strategies for diabetes control, such as exercise and nutrition guidelines, contact your local hospital. Susan B Allen can provide diabetes education for you and your family.

For more information about this and other topics of interest to seniors, please contact the Butler County Department on Aging at 775-0500.