Test Strip Coverage. How many is enough?

test strips. How many do you need? Diabetes Advocacy

Recently the British Columbian government announced that they would be restricting the number of test strips that they covered for people with diabetes.  Those using insulin would only receive 3000 test strips per 365 days.  Those who did not use insulin would be given significantly less.

BC is not the first province to do this.  The table below shows that there are very few provinces offering strip coverage that truly matches the needs of individuals with diabetes.

test strip coverage

What do coverage limits on test strips mean?

Are we simply too greedy? Do we want our provincial governments to cover too much? Are we testing too often? 3000 test strips is a little over 8 tests per day.  Shouldn’t that be enough?

My son ideally tests before each meal, two hours after every bolus, before and after exercise, before bed, and at least once during the night. He has used up his eight test strips before he has done his regular work out or retested after a low.  He does not have any strips to spare if there is a strip error.  He also doesn’t have anything extra for sick days when we know that a person will go through a ridiculous amount of strips thanks to highs, ketones, and vomiting.

Are people wasting test strips?

I read somewhere that the idea behind these restrictions was to help make people think a bit more before they test.  We don’t want them to just be testing willy-nilly and wasting strips.  That made no sense to me.

Why does someone willingly want to lance their finger for the fun of it? Yes, some people without diabetes like to do this to make sure that their blood glucose levels are in check but why would a person with diabetes whose fingertips already are a mess of black dots and scars want to poke themselves just for giggles?  They won’t!

My son is 17.  He tests when he has to and absolutely no more.  He tests when he feels that his blood glucose is on a fast rise or fall. He tests when he knows that something is off in his body and it needs his immediate attention.  It is never something done for fun.  It is done to keep him alive, healthy and productive.

Why should taxpayers cover test strips?

Why is it such a big deal for people to have their test strips covered? Why should tax payers care about covering the cost of test strips for people with diabetes who do not have private insurance? Because the cost of not helping them is far too high.

If people with diabetes are not testing their blood glucose levels, they are not able to note consistent highs or even lows that will silently damage their bodies.  They will not feel as healthy and they will  begin to miss more days of work. Over time they will develop complications that will completely take them out of the workforce and put a huge drain on the health care system.

4500 test strips per year for example would equate to testing just over 12 times per day.  That would be an extra $1050-1500 per year for those individuals who max out their test strip limit. Compare that amount to $263,000 per year that governments pay for hemodialysis which can result from poor diabetes control. Sadly, too many of provincial governments do not see the long term.  They see the possible $1500 per person per year that they are saving and stop there.  They are not concerned with the drain on the health care system in 5 or 10 years down the road.  They won’t be in office then and it will be someone else’s problem.

This thinking needs to change.  It is not just about the health concerns that they are creating for tomorrow by failing to properly care for people living with diabetes today. It is also about the money that they are losing from these individuals today.  People living with diabetes can lead very full and productive lives. They can be doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and mechanics.  There is very little that they cannot do when they are able to avail of the tools that help them to regulate their blood glucose levels properly.

When these individuals do not have the proper tools they miss time from work or may even have to remove themselves from the labour market.  They require the assistance of more government services rather than helping to pay for them.  Keep people living with diabetes healthy is to the benefit of everyone in society.  The reward in quality of life, longevity, and productivity far outweighs the cost of a few thousand dollars each year.

Error 5

error 5I looked over and my clock said 3:00am exactly. My mind said, “what are you doing awake?” My heart said, “Get your sorry butt out of bed and check your child’s blood sugar.” Stupid heart!

I keep lighting to a minimum during these checks because basically, I don’t want to wake myself up. I know how hard it is to get me back to sleep and I really don’t want to experience that sort of torture.  I found a meter on the kitchen table. I inserted a test strip, grabbed a lancing device and headed up the stairs to check my sleeping child’s blood.  

My mind was screaming, “You’ve only just fallen asleep so you KNOW he is going to be low! You are just never going to get any sleep tonight!”

I tried to ignore myself. I searched for an available finger and eventually wrestle it down. The blood flow was good that night. He must have been high. I waited for those five seconds to see…..Error 5.

What the…..???? What the heck is an “error 5” anyway? Back downstairs to get another test strip. Stupid meter. There was a tonne of blood. Did the diabetes gods not realize that this is just going to wake me up?? I did not need exercise at 3am! 

Okay, new test strip, back upstairs, wrestle finger again, lots of blood still, strip full and…..Error 5.  What the heck is a flippin’ Error 5??? I had had enough! Back downstairs I went for the third freaking time.

Can you tell that diabetes had done it and woken me up? Yep, I was awake and I was not taking this crap from this meter. I grabbed its identical, although slightly different colored twin, who was coded for the same test strip lot. I also grabbed the bottle of test strips. I would get a reading without doing my morning workout on the stairs!

Again, I found a hand as it stretches in its sleep.  I snafu’d it quickly and lanced it. The blood remained lovely and deep red. Strip sipped said blood and….Finally a reading of 7.5 (135)! Good enough for me. I didn’t need a perfect 7. I needed some sleep! 

Stupid diabetes!