Diabetes affects approximately 20 million Americans, but the senior population accounts for 20% of those diagnosed. Early detection and treatment can delay or prevent serious side effects, such as blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and leg or foot amputations. Treatment for diabetes can vary depending on the needs of each individual patient, but many people living with diabetes rely on medical supplies to test blood sugar levels, recognize symptoms, and treat the disease. If you are eligible for Medicare, you may get help paying for the diabetes supplies that can help you manage diabetes.

What Diabetes Supplies Will You Need?

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you and your physician will create a treatment plan designed to meet your specific needs. You may need the following supplies to help manage the disease:

  • Glucose (blood sugar) testing monitors and test strips
  • Insulin
  • Lancet devices and lancets
  • Blood sugar control solutions (to check the accuracy of the test strips and monitor)
  • Therapeutic shoes or inserts

How Medicare Can Help

If you are eligible for Medicare, you may get help paying for some of your diabetes supplies. When you qualify for Medicare due to age or disability, you will likely be automatically enrolled in Part A (Hospital Insurance). Most people choose to enroll in Part B (Medical Insurance) during their Initial Enrollment Period to avoid paying late enrollment penalties when they sign up later. Since Part A and Part B do NOT include any prescription drug coverage, many people choose to enroll in Part D prescription drug coverage as well.

Medicare Part B can help pay for diabetes supplies. Part B covers an array of benefits, including visits to a doctor, preventive services, and durable medical equipment (DME). Many of the diabetes supplies you will need are covered by Part B’s DME benefits, including:

  • Glucose testing monitors
  • Blood sugar test strips
  • Lancets and lancet devices
  • Glucose control solutions

If you use an external insulin pump, the pump may be covered under DME. Part B also covers the furnishing and fitting of either of these each calendar year:

  • One pair of custom-molded shoes and inserts
  • One pair of extra-depth shoes

Medicare will also cover 2 additional pairs of inserts each calendar year for custom-molded shoes and 3 pairs of inserts each calendar year for extra-depth shoes. Medicare will cover shoe modifications instead of inserts.

In order for Medicare to help cover these supplies, you will likely need to rent or purchase your supplies from a participating Medicare-approved supplier that accepts assignment. You will pay 20% of the Medicare approved amount, and the Part B deductible applies.

 What Medicare Part D Can Do

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage and may help you pay for some diabetes supplies. If you have Original Medicare, you may enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP). Many Medicare recipients choose to get their benefits through a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan that provides Part A and Part B benefits, along with additional coverage, such as prescription drug coverage. Even though Medicare Part B does not include coverage for insulin, insulin pens, syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, or gauze, your Part D coverage may help cover these costs.  Check with your stand-alone PDP or Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage plan to find out your exact costs and coverage.