Let’s lower the cost of diabetes-related supplies

February 17, 2019 GMT

I suffer from Type 2 diabetes. Due to a miscommunication between my pharmacy and my doctor’s office, I recently ran out of blood glucose testing strips. Those are normally covered by my Medicare drug plan at a cost of $3.33 for 100 strips.

Not wanting to go even a day without testing my blood glucose, I visited several pharmacies around town to discover the cost of the minimum amount of strips (typically a vial of 50 test strips). Here is the shocking reality: Every pharmacy, without exception, had prices that ranged from $90 to over $100 for a vial of 50 test strips. Many pharmacies carry only the 100 (two vial) option, with a cost of $180 or more.

Here’s a surprise, though. If you go online, you can find the one vial (50 strip) option for as low as $30 and the two vial (100 strips) for $58 on Amazon. Numerous other sites offer similar savings, but it may take two to three days to receive your strips after ordering. Some of the manufacturers of the strips offer discount programs for those people not able to obtain insurance. If you suffer from diabetes, do not purchase them from any pharmacy — you will pay the highest price possible. I didn’t want to wait for delivery, and being fortunate to afford the retail price, I reluctantly paid the full price at a local pharmacy. But there’s more to this story. Those strips were subject to the state tax, a total slap in the face. Here’s what’s wrong with that in the state of New Mexico.

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A report from America’s Health Rankings (www.americashealthrankings.org) for 2018 shows that if you suffer from diabetes in New Mexico, you are likely to be: male (11.2 percent), 65 or older (20.1 percent), Native American (18.6 percent) or Hispanic (11.7 percent), rural (13.3 percent) or suburban resident (15.1 percent), have less than a high school education (15.5 percent) or are a high school graduate (14.8 percent), and earn less than $25,000 per year (15.4 percent).

In other words, diabetes affects those residents of the state least likely to be able to afford the cost of diabetic care, testing and prevention (blood glucose test strips, lancets, alcohol preparation pads). For some perverse reason, however, the state of New Mexico has decided to burden the cost of those testing supplies with the state tax.

How is it possible that in a state that has a population with one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the United States, a state that should be doing everything possible to lower that incidence decides to tax those things that would help control and hopefully lower the incidence? By forcing those people least likely to afford those daily testing supplies to the added insult of paying tax on those things that already are outrageously priced if you are unable to get insurance, the state is failing its most vulnerable residents. It is outrageous and unconscionable.

I do not know how the tax on these diabetic testing supplies ever came to be voted for and applied in the first place. I do hope, though, that if you suffer from diabetes and are having trouble affording testing supplies, you will contact your representative in the New Mexico Legislature while they are in session and demand that they pass a bill removing any and all taxes from all diabetic testing supplies. If you do not suffer from diabetes but have a relative, friend or acquaintance that does, jump in on their behalf and raise the issue with your state representative. The health of the state demands it.

Eddie Bradford is a retired college professor and software engineer who has lived in Santa Fe for 15 years.