Below is our updated directory of free diabetic test supplies and diabetic testing and treatment, as well as sources of federal, state and local health assistance programs. We are constantly adding additional resources for diabetes patients to the list, so please bookmark this page for future reference and check back regularly.
- U.S. Federal Government Assistance For Diabetics
- Free Diabetes Test Supplies by Mail
- Free Samples of Medications
- Local Assistance for Diabetics
- Free Healthcare Grants For Diabetics
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA)
- Low Income Assistance from Drug Companies (Patient Assistance Programs)
- Pharmacies With Free Diabetes Medication Programs
- Free Clinical Trials
- Free Diabetes Test Strips
- Free Diabetic Test Supplies: Other Sources
- Discounted Diabetes Testing Supplies
- Canadian Pharmacies
The Medicaid program is a state-run, federally mandated, health fund that is available to individuals and families with low incomes who meet certain qualifications. These qualifications vary by state, but are generally restricted to those who are between 18-64, live well below the national poverty level, have children in the home or at least one individual who is totally disabled. These programs usually pay for Doctor’s visits (only Doctors who accept MediCaid as a form of payment), emergency services, hospital services and a limited number of prescription medications. For example, older, generic pills to treat diabetes may be covered by these programs, but more modern (and expensive) medications that your Doctor may want to prescribe to treat diabetes may not be covered. Don’t expect Medicaid program to cover any type of elective surgeries, insulin pumps, most non-generic prescription medications or other products/services that private health insurance would normally cover. Contact your state or county Department of Social Services for information on requirements to qualify for these programs, as well as what benefits are available.
Medicare is a Government program that provides healthcare services for U.S. citizens who are age 65 and older. Those who are disabled, or who have become disabled, can also apply for Medicare. Limited coverage is available for those of all ages who suffer from kidney failure caused by diabetes. To find out if you are eligible, contact your local Social Security office or you may call the Medicare Hotline phone number listed below.
Medicare provides coverage for glucose test monitors, testing strips and lancets as well as nutritional therapy services for those with diabetes or kidney disease when referred by a physician. Diabetes training, glaucoma screening, therapeutic shoes, flu and pneumonia shots are also available under Medicare.
To obtain more information on Medicare benefits, call the National Diabetes Education Program at (800) 438–5383 and request copies of The Power to Control Diabetes Is in Your Hands and Expanded Medicare Coverage of Diabetes Services, or you may read them via the Internet at http://www.ndep.nih.gov . A copy of the booklet Medicare Coverage of Diabetes Supplies & Services may be obtained from:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244–1850
Phone: 1–800–MEDICARE (633–4227)
Federally Funded Hospital Care
If you do not have medical insurance and are in need of hospital care, help may be available through the U.S. Government via a little-known federal health care grant program. The United States Congress passed the Hospital Survey and Construction Act, sometimes called the Hill-Burton Act (named after the two senators who originally sponsored the bill) in 1946. The program originally set out to provide hospitals with grants for modernization. Today, it provides free and discounted medical services to those with low incomes. Information on how to get free health care under the Hill-Burton Act is available on the website of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
There are quite a number of companies that provide free diabetic testing supplies by mail. They are generally referred to as “Medicare Participating Providers”. The catch? You must quality for Medicare or have private health insurance without deductibles in order to get diabetes testing supplies for free. For more info on how this is possible, see our Frequently Asked Questions page at Straight Talk on Diabetes and Diabetic Testing Supplies. Below is a list of links to mail order companies that provide free diabetic testing supplies by mail:
Besides free samples of diabetes medications that are available from your physician, drug companies occasionally make some free samples available directly to consumers. One good source of these occasional offers is QualityHealth.Com. Their free membership includes an excellent newsletter about diabetes topics as well as notifications of drug recalls and occasional free samples that become available. Regardless of where you get free samples of prescription drugs for diabetes from, they will almost always be brand name or non-generic, since they are made available by drug companies wishing to promote their own products. Rarely, are free samples of generic drugs made available through physicians or directly to consumers.
State Children’s Health Insurance Program
The United States Department of Health and Human Services founded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (or SCHIP) to help minor children who do not have health insurance. It provides health coverage for children whose families earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private health insurance. Consumers may obtain free information about the program by calling (877) 543–7669 or by visiting http://www.insurekidsnow.gov.
Private Health Insurance
Due to the fact that private health insurance is meant to cover unexpected future illnesses, pre-existing diabetes presents a problem. Diabetes is considered a pre-existing condition. So, finding (affordable) coverage can be difficult. Many private insurance carriers have specific waiting periods during which they will not cover diabetes related expenses for new customers. They will usually cover other medical expenses during this time though.
Recent federal and state laws may help, however. An increasing number of states now require insurance companies to cover diabetes education and supplies. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability Act limits insurance companies from denying people coverage due to a pre-existing condition. For more information on these laws, contact your state insurance department or agency. They can also help you find insurance companies that offers individual private coverage.
Private Health Insurance – After Leaving a Job
If you lose your health coverage when you leave your job, you may be able to buy group coverage for up to 18 months under a Federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or COBRA. Buying group coverage is cheaper than going out alone to buy individual coverage. If you have a disability, you can extend COBRA coverage for up to 29 months. COBRA may also cover young people who were insured under a parent’s policy but have reached the age limit and are trying to obtain their own insurance.
For more information, call the Department of Labor at 1–866–487–2365 or see http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm on the Internet.
If you don’t qualify for coverage or if your COBRA coverage has expired, you can still seek other options:
* Some states require employers to offer conversion policies, in which you stay with your insurance company but buy individual coverage.
* Some professional or alumni organizations offer group coverage for members.
* Your state may be one of 29 with a high-risk pool for people unable to get coverage.
* Some insurance companies also offer stopgap policies designed for people who are between jobs.
Contact your state insurance regulatory office for more information on these and other options. Information on consumer health plans is also available at the U.S. Department of Labor’s website at http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/consumerinfhealth.htm.
Dialysis and Transplantation
Kidney failure is a complication of diabetes. In 1972, Congress passed legislation making people of any age with permanent kidney failure eligible for Medicare. To qualify for Medicare on the basis of kidney failure, you must need regular dialysis or have had a kidney transplant, and you must have worked under Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board, or as a Government employee (or be the child or spouse of someone who has), or you must already be receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits. Every American needing dialysis for chronic kidney failure is eligible for dialysis assistance. For more information, call the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 1–800–MEDICARE (633–4227) to request the booklet Medicare Coverage of Kidney Dialysis and Kidney Transplant Services. This booklet is also available on the Internet at http://www.medicare.gov under “Publications.”
For information on financing an organ transplant, contact the following organization:
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
P.O. Box 2484
Richmond, VA 23218
Most HMOs are able to manage costs by limiting choices of physicians to those on their network, restricting access to medical specialists, minimizing allowed hospital stays, and stressing preventive care. On most plans (especially Medicare HMOs) you may select your own primary care provider who is responsible for directing your care and sending you to medical specialists when they feel it necessary. Some HMO plans also cover additional benefits, such as prescription drugs.
For more info on HMOs, in particular the quality of care offered to enrollees, contact the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) at (888) 275–7585 or see http://www.ncqa.org on the World Wide Web.
Medicare also has a number of publications to help you learn more about HMOs. Visit http://www.medicare.gov on the Internet or call 1–800–MEDICARE for additional information.
Health Care Services
The Bureau of Primary Health Care, a service of the Health Resources and Services Administration, offers health care for people regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. To find local health centers, call 1–800–400–2742 and ask for a directory, or visit the bureau’s website at http://www.bphc.hrsa.gov on the Internet.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) runs hospitals and clinics that serve veterans who have service-related health problems or who simply need financial aid. If you’re a veteran and would like to find out more about VA health care, call 1–800–827–1000 or visit their website at http://www.va.gov.
Many local governments have public health departments that can help people who need medical care. Your local county or city government’s health and human services office can provide further information.
Prescription Drugs and Medical Supplies
If you can’t pay for your medicines and supplies without help, you should tell your health care provider. Your doctor may be able to direct you to local programs or even provide free samples.
You or your doctor can order a free filament to check feet for nerve damage. The filament (with instructions for use) is available by calling the Bureau of Primary Health Care’s (BPHC’s) Lower Extremity Amputation Prevention Program (LEAP) at 1–888–ASK–HRSA (275–4772) or by accessing http://www.hrsa.gov/leap/default.htm on the Internet.
The Medicare program offers a searchable database of prescription drug assistance programs at http://www.medicare.gov/Choices/Overview.asp. This website gives information on public and private programs offering discounted or free medication. You can also learn about Medicare health plans with prescription coverage.
In addition, drug companies that sell insulin or diabetes medications usually have patient assistance programs. Such programs are available only through a physician. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and its member companies sponsor an interactive website with information on drug assistance programs at http://www.pparx.org.
Also, since programs targeted at the homeless sometimes provide aid, try contacting a local shelter for more information on how to obtain free medications and medical supplies. Check your phone book under Human Service Organizations or Social Service Organizations for the number of the nearest shelter.
Public agencies that provide assistance to children with diabetes and other disabilities and to their families are listed on the State Resource Sheets published by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). These free resource sheets, which list the names and addresses of agencies in your state, are available by contacting:
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
College-age students who have diabetes-related disabilities may be faced not only with the costs of tuition, but also with additional expenses generally not incurred by other students. These costs may include special equipment and disability-related medical expenses not covered by insurance. Some special equipment and support services may be available at the institution, through community organizations, through the state vocational rehabilitation agency, or through specific disability organizations. The names and addresses of these and other agencies are also listed in the State Resource Sheets.
You can apply for financial aid at the financial aid office of the institution you plan to attend. A free copy of the booklet Funding Your Education is available from the U.S. Department of Education by writing to
Federal Student Aid Programs
P.O. Box 84
Washington, DC 20044–0084
The HEATH Resource Center (National Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities) offers information on sources of financial aid and the education of students with a disability. Contact:
The George Washington University
HEATH Resource Center
2121 K Street NW., Suite 220
Washington, DC 20037
Information on grants that are available to individuals for financing higher education is available at the following nonprofit organization’s library:
The Foundation Center
79 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Assistive technology, which can help people with disabilities function more effectively at home, at work, and in the community, can include computers, adaptive equipment, wheelchairs, bathroom modifications, and medical or corrective services. The following organizations provide information, awareness, and training in the use of technology to aid people with disabilities:
Alliance for Technology Access (ATA)
1304 Southpoint Boulevard, Suite 240
Petaluma, CA 94954
UCP (a.k.a. United Cerebral Palsy)
1660 L Street NW., Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
If you’ve had an amputation, paying for your rehabilitation expenses may be a concern. The following organizations provide financial assistance or information about locating financial resources for people who need prosthetic care:
Amputee Coalition of America
900 East Hill Avenue, Suite 285
Knoxville, TN 37915–2568
Phone: 1–888–AMP–KNOW (267–5669)
230 West Monroe Street, Suite 1800
Chicago, IL 60606
Prosthetics for Diabetics Foundation
323 Reed Way
Monroe, GA 30655
Internet: http:// www.expage.com/page/pfdfoundation
Food and Nutrition
Food, nutrition education, and access to health care services are also available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. Pregnant women who meet residential, financial need, and nutrition risk criteria are eligible for assistance. Gestational diabetes is considered a medically based nutrition risk and would qualify a woman for assistance through the WIC program if she meets the financial need requirements and has lived in a particular state the required amount of time. The WIC website provides a page of contact information for each state and Indian tribe, or you can contact the national headquarters at the following address:
WIC at FNS Headquarters:
Supplemental Food Programs Division
Food and Nutrition Service—USDA
3101 Park Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22302
For help in financing some of the many expenses related to diabetes, you may also want to seek out available local resources, such as the following charitable groups:
* Lions Clubs International provides vision care assistance
* Rotary Clubs provides humanitarian and educational assistance
* Elks Clubs provides charitable activities that benefit youth and veterans
* Shriners offers free treatment for children at Shriners hospitals throughout the United States
* Kiwanis Clubs conducts fund raising events and helps projects to help the community, especially children
* Religious Organizations. Some of these can be found using the below links.
Catholic Charities USA – Serves both Catholics and non-Catholics
Islamic-American Zakat Foundation – Provides financial and other assistance to Muslims and non-Muslims.
Worldwide Christian Relief Services – A list Christian charities that help provide medical services for the poor in many countries.
Nonprofits and charities sometimes provide financial assistance or can assist with fund-raising. Some local governments may also have trusts set up to help diabetic patients in need. More information is usually available at your local library or your local city or at the health and human services division of your local government.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1978, the Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes to people with diabetes and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes.
United Healthcare Children’s Foundation
Grants provided under this program provide financial relief for families who have children with medical needs not covered or not fully covered by their commercial health benefit plan. This includes treatment for diabetes and its complications. The Foundation aims to fill the gap between what medical services/items a child needs and what commercial health benefit plans will pay for. Applicants must be 16 years old or younger and live in the United States. The applicant must be covered by a commercial health benefit plan and limits for the requested service are either exceeded, or no coverage is available and/or the co-payments are a serious financial burden on the family. The amount awarded to an individual within a 12-month period is limited to either $5,000 or 85% of the fund balance, whichever amount is less. Awards to any one individual are limited to a lifetime maximum of $7,500. For more information contact:
UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation
PO BOX 41
Minneapolis, MN 55440-0041
(952) 992-4459 phone
You have likely seen this organization’s advertisements on television featuring Montel Williams or the “PPA Express” bus tour across America. The PPA is, according to its website, a group funded by America’s pharmaceutical research companies. It maintains a database of more than 475 patient assistance programs for low-income and uninsured patients, about half of which are run by pharmaceutical companies. The program helps match patients with programs they are eligible for. PPA does not provide any actual prescription drug assistance directly. It simply maintains a public database that can be searched through via their website or by calling their toll-free telephone number.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA)
Phone: 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669)
Eli Lilly and Company – Lilly Cares Program
Lilly Cares is a patient assistance program administered by Lilly Cares Foundation, Inc., a private operating foundation. Lilly Cares Foundation was created by and receives its financial and product support from Eli Lilly and Company. Lilly Cares assists uninsured patients with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Most Lilly products are available through the program. Eligibility is based on a patient’s inability to pay and the lack of third-party drug payment assistance, such as insurance, Medicaid, and government, community, or private payment assistance programs.
The company provides free and low-cost diabetes medications to both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, including the drugs Glucagon and Humalog. Free information is available by phone or through the company’s website at the address below.
Roche Accu-Chek Patient Assistance Program
Roche Diagnostics, which manufacturers the ACCU-CHEK line of blood glucose monitors, offers a patient assistance program for low-income diabetics that are without insurance coverage. The program provides free blood glucose test strips from the ACCU-CHEK line of blood glucose monitors. As with most other patient assistance programs, the offer is only available in the United States, requires a significant amount of paperwork and proof of low income may be required.
Roche Diagnostics Patient Assistance Program
PO Box 18740, Louisville, KY 40261
Additional Patient Assistance Programs
A number of regional chain pharmacies, mostly in the Eastern portion of the United States, have begun offering free refills of several generic diabetes medications. These are usually limited to oral medications that have been generic for quite some time and are relatively inexpensive at large chain pharmacies such as Walmart, Target and Costco. For the latest list of pharmacies offering these free refill programs, read our article Free Diabetes Drugs Now Available at Some Pharmacies.
If your only choice is to shop locally, and you can’t find one with free prescription refills, we have found that the national chains with the most consistent low prices on prescription medications are Walmart and Costco (sometimes Target, as well). Many other pharmacies offer discount plans (some free, some not free), but their prices aren’t consistently as low, even with the discount. When we did our own pricing, pharmacies such as Rite-Aid, CVS and Walgreen’s tended to be higher in price than Walmart or Costco. Walgreen’s currently charges $20 a year for their “discount card”, yet were still more expensive than than prices at the local Costco in our experience. It pays to shop around.
For Americans who do not meet the rigid income (or lack thereof) requirements or other criteria demanded by most PPA programs, there is still hope for getting free diabetes test supplies and medical care. There are numerous clinical trials being conducted on new diabetes treatments at any given time. Most of these trials are paid for by pharmaceutical manufacturers and conducted at hospitals and universities throughout the country. Generally speaking, the closer you are to a major metropolitan area, the more likely the chance of your finding a free clinical trial in your area.
What, exactly, is a clinical trial and what free benefits does it provide? This answer varies widely, depending upon the particular study. Most clinical trials require you to go through an intensive interview and screening process, followed by regular lab testing, exams and interviews over periods of time ranging from a few months to many, many years. You will likely be required to follow a prescribed diet and exercise program as a part of the study. Some clinical trials simply test the effects of existing drugs or substances upon your existing diabetes treatment. Other trials are to test new diabetes treatments and medications. These are generally much more intensive (and experimental) in the amount of testing required, but they also usually provide you with the most support, frequent diabetes tests and lab work you would normally have to pay for, free medication as well as free blood glucose monitors and diabetes test strips.
Clinical trials are generally divided into “phases”. The lower the number of the phase, the earlier on the trial is in its research. A study in Phase I will likely be highly experimental. Studies in Phase III would most likely be far enough along that most “bugs” will be worked out and that the drugs you will be taking have been proven to have a safe track record. Considering the fact that many FDA approved drugs later are found to cause serious health complications, clinical trials at Stage III are probably little more likely to have negative side-effects than prescription drugs that are already available on the market.
Depending upon the trial, and how badly they need volunteers, drug companies may even be willing to pay your travel expenses, in addition to the above benefits. Even more valuable is the fact that you will likely receive more thorough medical care than you could ever hope to afford anywhere, with even the best of insurance plans. After all, it is not in the drug manufacturers best interest for you to die in the middle of one of their clinical trials. Tens of millions of dollars in potential profits could be at stake, so you should receive an incredibly high level of medical care while participating in one of these programs, most likely under the direct observation of some of the world’s leading scientists.
For the most current list of clinical trial programs we know of that are active, see our article Diabetics: Get Free Health Care, Drugs With Clinical Trials. To find a list of free clinical trials available in your area, we also highly recommend using the search feature of ClinicalTrials.Gov, which is run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Although the database is run by the U.S. government, the website currently lists clinical trials being held in over 170 countries.
For diabetics who are having a difficult time paying for their test supplies, you may be able to obtain help through a non-profit group called ACT1 Diabetes Group: Adults Coping With Type 1 Diabetes. This organization provides free diabetic test supplies to low income diabetics on an as-needed basis. It is strictly a volunteer group, and receives no government funding. It is not a long-term solution, but could be a lifesaver if you are temporarily unable to afford test strips or other diabetes testing supplies.
There’s no way around it. Diabetic testing supplies are expensive, especially if you do not have medical insurance that covers the cost. There are a number of online and mail-order companies that carry diabetes test supplies such as blood glucose monitors, test strips, lancets and other equipment for much cheaper than you would normally be able to buy them for at your local pharmacy. Some of these companies can even fill prescriptions for diabetes medications by mail order as well. Although shipping charges can sometimes be expensive, many of these discounters offer free shipping with minimum orders of $100, $50 or even $25. Orders may be exempt from state sales tax as well, if the supplier is located in another state.
CAUTION! Although the vast majority of mail order diabetes testing supply companies are legitimate, there are always some “bad apples” in the bunch. When buying diabetic testing supplies on the Internet, be especially wary of “limited-time” offers at discounts that seem too good to be true. Some liquidators will offer items such as test strips that have passed their expiration date. Unlike with many medications, most diabetic test strips will not work AT ALL if they are used after the expiration date. Be sure that the company you are dealing with has a fair return policy, just in case the product you receive is defective in any way. You should not have to pay a “restocking fee” for defective test supplies.
Below are some of the internet-based, mail order providers of discounted diabetes testing supplies that we recommend.
American Diabetes Wholesale has some of the lowest prices available on diabetes test supplies, insulin pump supplies, syringes, nutritional supplements, sugar-free foods and more. They have especially good deals on diabetic testing strips, with lower prices per strip than anywhere else we have seen. If you don’t have insurance and can’t qualify for free diabetic test supplies under any of the above programs, this is probably the least expensive route to go.
Amazon.Com offers a huge array of non-prescription diabetes testing supplies, both directly and using third-party merchants. Free shipping is available on all orders over $25, if sold directly by amazon.com. Third-parties selling via amazon.com have their own shipping prices and policies. For approximately $70 per year, Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on ALL orders they place directly with amazon.com, with no minimums. Next day delivery is also available to amazon.com Prime members for an additional $3.99 per order.
Believe it or not, the cheapest diabetes test supplies including blood glucose meters, test strips, lancets as well as insulin and other prescription diabetic medications, we have found via retailers is at Walmart. If you have to shop at a local pharmacy, Walmart will almost always be the cheapest. Buying in bulk via mail order is about the only way you will be able to find testing supplies for less. Depending upon your state, sales tax may be an issue to consider vs. shipping costs. You probably will not be able to find Walmart’s best deals online. You will have to actually make a trip to the company’s nearest store for a quote. Fortunately, they are pretty much everywhere, here in the United States. Prices change regularly, so we will not bother listing costs for any specific products here. Walmart almost always has the best deals of any local pharmacy though.
CANADA PHARMACY is the largest Canadian mail order pharmacy on the internet, and offers sizable discounts on a number of prescription medications for diabetics. You will need a prior, valid prescription from a U.S. physician on file with them before they will ship your products. The discounts can be quite substantial, as compared to U.S. pharmacies on many well-known, brand-name medications. Generic medications are typically cheaper to buy in the United States, for the most part though.
Directory last updated on September 12, 2016
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