The Cost of Having Diabetes For a Year

It’s tax time. I’ve just spent the weekend being a good brother and completing both of my siblings’ tax returns, as well as my own a week ago.

The topic of conversation over dinner on Friday night was annual incomes, and how they stack up against all of our living expenses. Then, as if trying to prove his point, my Dad asked me how much all of my diabetes expenses would add up to.

I guess I’ve never really done the sums before, for a few reasons. My diabetes and broader health are non-negotiable expenses, drummed into me by parents (second only to eating). Obviously here in Australia, we are extremely lucky that most of the essentials are heavily subsidised, and I’ve never genuinely struggled to make ends meet. I’ve also received a great deal of support from my family in terms of meeting the costs associated with my diabetes care.

So, maybe I should count myself lucky that I’m only doing the sums for the first time today.

Test Strips – $918.50

I would go through at least 15 test strips to monitor my blood sugar each day.

That’s 5,475 test strips a year.

Or 55 boxes of 100 test strips a year.

A box of test strips will set me back $16.70, which costs me a beautiful $918.50 each year.

Infusion Sets – $217.10

I would change the infusion set on my insulin pump every three days.

Thats a total of 122 infusion sets each year.

Or 13 boxes of 10 sets per year.

A box of infusion sets will set me back $16.40, which totals a fantastic $217.10 a year.

Insulin Cartridges – $54.50

I replace the insulin cartridge in my pump once a week.

That’s 52 cartridges each year.

Or 5 boxes of 10 cartridges per year.

A box of cartridges sets me back $10.90, which adds up to a cool $54.50 each year.

Insulin – $77.60

A 3ml cartridge of NovoRapid insulin lasts me roughly 7 days.

That’s 52 cartridges a year.

Or two scripts per year, each containing five boxes of five NovoRapid cartridges.

A script of NovoRapid penfill cartridges sets me back $38.80, which is a cheap as chips $77.60 per year.

(Thank you Australia, for making insulin so relatively affordable. Unfortunately the rest of the world doesn’t have the same luxury).

Private Health Insurance – $918

I wouldn’t want to be without a private health insurance policy. It covers the cost of any hospital visits, treatment, as well as rebates on other services such as dental and optical. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind, as well as the $9,000 insulin pump that was fully covered under my policy last year!

I renew my policy annually, which set me back an awesome $918 this year.

(Not to worry, it only gets more expensive with every passing year!)

General Practitioner – $16

I would only visit my GP if I need something. Such as an examination, a signature, or a fresh script of insulin inbetween endo visits. Or if I’m dying.

I might visit my GP twice a year.

After a Medicare rebate, I’m usually left to pay $8 out of pocket, which adds up to an awesome $16 per year.

Diabetes Educator Sessions- $100

While I see an endo for free at the hospital, I choose to see a diabetes educator privately. Private education gives me invaluable support and one-on-one time that the public system simply does not allow for.

I would visit my diabetes educator five times annually.

After a Medicare rebate, I am left to pay $20 out of pocket for each session, which totals a cool $100 a year.

Hypo Treatment – $40

My go-to treatment for hypos are Skittles. 

I buy them in party buckets.

I would buy four party buckets a year.

A party bucket sets me back $10, which totals a nice $40 a year.

Grand Total – $2,341.70

It costs me $2,341.70 to live with diabetes for a year. That’s not even factoring in the intangible costs. It’s a fair chunk of my annual income. It saddens me, because it would definitely make a dent in a few bills at home, among other things.

However, I also count myself fairly lucky, because I know that my counterparts overseas might not be as fortunate as me. If I have to live with diabetes, then there’s no place in the world that I’d rather live with it than in Australia.

But seriously, I think it’s time we make these expenses tax deductible.

Better yet, give us a chronic illness tax offset. C’mon, Australia!


  1. Carol Coombes

    Not only are there the monetary costs, but there are also the physical and psychological costs to this disease. And there can be no price that can evaluate them.

  2. As a counterpart: I live with non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes and hypertension in the US. Since we’re talking costs under coverage:
    Health insurance: when I was working full-time, my share was about $100/month for premiums and about $105/month into a Health Savings Account (which covered everything that wasn’t otherwise covered up to my $1500 annual deductible), or about $2500/year. At the end of the plan year, I’d have about $500 leftover which would cover my prescription eyeglasses (at discount rate because of $9/month optical insurance), or I could roll it over to the next year. So, I was paying about $2000 pre-tax (until recently, health insurance and healthcare payments out of specialized savings accounts were not taxable), out of pocket.

    Since our full-time positions were eliminated and we’ve been reduced to part-time, we lose our medical benefits (except for COBRA). Under COBRA, I’m paying $450 a month for insurance ($5400/year), $125 per quarterly doctor visit (as opposed to $450 without insurance) – $500/year, $50 per quarterly labs (as opposed to $450 without insurance) – $200/year, and about $100 a quarter for 200-300 test strips (I use a non-preferred brand) and hypertension medications; my lancets and metformin are fully covered by my insurance. So, about $6500/year total, post-tax.

    [Note that I’m having to dig into savings to cover this unless and until I can find another full-time job that does not require a personal automobile (cost to own and operate: about $900/month between car payments, insurance, gas, and tolls).]

    Were I not covered by COBRA, my monthly insurance premiums would be about $550/month and going up about $50/month each year (greater age = higher health risks) for catastrophic insurance only (doesn’t cover medications or doctor visits or labs), and while I could get metformin for about $20/quarter, my strips are $105/100 retail (I’d switch to another brand which is more like $50/100 retail) and my hypertension medications are about $250/quarter retail, or $8100 a year, plus the cost of my eye exam and glasses (again, all post-tax).

    • Thanks for sharing that, Brenda. I do wish that the rest of the world were as fortunate as we are here in Australia. Here in Australia, we are facing similar prospects with an economic downturn and job losses. However it’s awful to think that access to healthcare coverage is dependent on your income. I really hope that your situation gets better soon.

      • Nicola

        Should all be free as it’s a medical condition that we didn’t cause just like asthma etc if you are going to get it you can’t do nothing about it – in UK I am certain they get there perscriptions for free for diabetics so at least in Australia give the diabetics health care card so they can afford to live – i have been living with Type 1 for over 30 years and my son also has Type 1 – I am considering that I won’t be able to afford to buy all medical needs for my son and myself if I return to work – would be no problem if they gave people with medical conditions health care card I would be able to work but can’t afford to go back to work 😢

  3. I never used to think about the cost of diabetes until all this stuff has happened in the US. Now I feel super lucky although at times the test strips and now the free style libre does set me back a bit…Thanks for this post!

  4. Ivan

    Cost of type1 much higher in U.S. It is a shame so many people and companies profit so much from type1 not being cured.

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