October 24, 2011

Choosing The Right Blood Glucose Meter

For a person that is newly diagnosed with diabetes, selecting a blood glucose meter is not high on their list of things to do. Most often the certified diabetes educator or a dietitian, or in some cases the doctor or his/her nurse will present you with a limited selection and briefly discuss each and ask which you want. In my case it was a hospital CDE that had done her homework and knew which blood glucose meters were covered by my medical insurance. What many writers on this topic forget, in their push to discuss blood glucose meters, is what brands will the readers medical insurance cover.

So unless you are independently wealthy enough to purchase any brand, check with your medical insurance company to know what brands are included in their coverage. Do not forget to ask if the strips are covered for each brand. There have been some mix ups in the past where they covered a meter, but not the test strips. The test strips are the major cost and needs to be considered. For those on Medicare, most all brands and their test strips are available and covered.

Two of the better discussions are done by Joslin Diabetes and the Mayo Clinic. So take time to read their discussion of choosing you blood glucose meter. This site by the FDA while not the best, has some very good pointers.

One important word of caution. We all have probably seen the advertising on TV for the meters that cause no pain. They are right in that statement only. It is not the meters, but the lancets that can cause pain and if used properly, even they cause none to minimal pain. Many of these meters are advertised for use on your arm. If you want or need more accurate and time sensitive blood glucose readings, you will not use these meters. This is especially important if experiencing a low – hypoglycemia – or are doing a post meal reading – postprandial reading. Their accuracy is suspect and at least 20 to 30 minutes after the fact.

So if you are on insulin or oral medications capable of causing hypoglycemia, avoid any meter recommended for arm testing. You need the almost instant readings that you obtain from your finger tips. If you are dropping rapidly, a reading 20 minutes after the fact may be too late to prevent severe hypoglycemia.

New meters are coming on the market fairly regularly, so if you do have time to research them and your insurance does cover them, do yourself favor and check them out. Many have new features that can be helpful and some have too many bells and whistles you will never use. I do like some that now have a feature of giving you a voice announcement of your blood glucose reading, but if you are out in public a lot when you need to test, this feature may not be something you want if you like your privacy.

If you are unemployed or underemployed and cost is a factor, definitely shop around for the cost of the meter and the test strips. Inquire of the manufacturers if they have programs for assistance (many do) and search the web for support groups that offer assistance with testing supplies. There is a wide range of this type of support and the biggest task is finding a good fit. There are groups or individuals taking advantage of you by getting the money and sending outdated strips, so be careful and ask for references. Some diabetes sites can also offer guidance in finding reputable assistance.

If you have served honorably in the US military and are eligible for Medicare, make sure that you apply for Veterans Assistance from the Veterans Administration. This requires copies of your DD214. What you may have for co-pay is based on your income (means test = income less qualifying medical expenses). Testing supplies are normally no charge, but medications are subject to co-pay.

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