Continuous Glucose Monitoring Cost

Written by: Staff

A continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) is designed to offer a continuous readout of the glucose levels in the tissue fluid, and in order for the device to work, you will insert a sensor beneath your skin, similar to that of a needle stick, according to Diabetes Self-Management.

Made of similar filters used in dialysis, this FDA-approved device continuously measures your glucose levels, all while sending the results to a nearby connected device, usually the size of a small piece of paper every five to 15 minutes.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring Cost
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How much does a continuous glucose monitoring system cost?

The costs of a continuous glucose monitoring system will depend on a few factors, including the brand you choose, the sensors used and which retailer you purchase it from.

First, in order to understand a continuous glucose monitoring system, you need to know that, just like a fingerstick test, you will need to continuously purchase sensors, which will be inserted beneath the skin, every three to eight days.  These sensors are responsible, as mentioned above, to help send the measurements of your glucose levels to the nearby monitor you’re wearing and will actually sit above the skin, while a cannula will bring the fluid to be analyzed to the skin.  These sensors, retailing for about $30 to $110, will all depend on the brand you buy and will need to be purchased at least once a week, meaning you should budget $120 to $440 a month for just the sensors.

In some cases, long-term sensors, often lasting up to six months or more, can be implanted via a specialist, often increasing the costs well into the $3,000+ range after the surgery is considered.

As for the monitors that read the results, these devices can cost anywhere from $100 to more than $1,500, all depending on the brand.  Plus, seeing most will require a prescription from your doctor, you will need to budget for a doctor’s visit as well.   Also, depending on the brand you do decide to purchase, some of the transmitter batteries will need to be changed annually for close to $500 or so.

The FreeStyle Libre, for example, is available via prescription can cost as little as $80 for the reader and another $129 to $159 per month for the sensors.  Unlike other devices, however, it will not require a fingerstick calibration, but it will have a 12-hour warm-up period; it also does not have alarms and will not communicate continuously, hence, the lower price tag.

On the premium side, the more popular Dexcom systems can retail for $700 to more than $1,400.

As far as health insurance goes, many policies will often pay for the device, and in some cases, the sensors as well; however, to be certain, talk with your health insurance provider to know what your limitations are and if your policy even covers the device.

Monitor$100 for basic to $1,500 for more advanced
Sensors$30 to $100 every 7 days or can be surgically implanted, with some costs in low $x,xxx range
Transmitter Battery Maintenance$300 to $500 annually

How does it work?

The CGM device will measure the amount of glucose in the fluid inside of your body, and depending on the brand chosen, most of the devices will use the same method by collecting the information via tiny sensors which are placed beneath the skin or adhered to the back of the arm.  Once implanted, the sensor will then send information to a wireless-like pager that you will wear on your belt, where you can check your results in real-time as well as set alarms if your numbers become too high or low.  Again, most devices work in a similar manner, but some may have more features than others.

Pros of a glucose monitoring system

Check your levels throughout the day:  As the name indicates, you can read your current glucose values throughout the day as long as the device is calibrated correctly and no finger sticks will be necessary to receive your results.

Follow trends:  Almost all monitors available on the market have what’s known as a “trend arrow,” which tells you if your levels are rising or lowering faster than it should.  Depending on the features of your monitor, many have alarms that will sound when high or low numbers are met, a great option for insulin users to keep a tighter control.

Easy to use:  All devices are not created equally in terms of user-friendliness; however, most have been said to be discreet and easy to use.

Identify fluctuations:  This WebMD article noted that continuous glucose monitoring systems can often identify fluctuations and trends that sometimes go unnoticed with the standard fingerstick HbA1c tests.

Help understand the situation:  With real-time results, it can help you understand what may be causing your blood sugar levels to rise or lower throughout the day.  In some cases, some patients have found they were able to change the timing of their insulin to help manage their diabetes more effectively, for example.

Cons of a glucose monitoring system

Is it real-time? As with a lot of at-home medical devices, the numbers can lag since it can take glucose up to 10 minutes to move from your blood into your tissue fluid, effectively meaning these numbers are not truly “real-time” numbers.

Still need a standard fingerstick:  These devices should not replace the standard fingerstick test because, as mentioned above, you will still need to use this type of test to calibrate the machine, making it an ongoing job.

High costs:  Some find the costs not worth it as the total start-up costs can far exceed $2,000 in the first year.

Tips to know

While the system sounds handy, you will still need to check your blood via your finger up to four times a day in order to keep the device calibrated for many of the devices on the market.  Failing to follow the directions and/or use it incorrectly can lead to inaccurate results.  Also, these devices are not designed to replace your traditional home monitors, according to WebMD as you will still need to measure your blood sugar levels using a regular glucose monitor.

If you do not have adequate health insurance coverage or cannot afford the payment up front, talk with the CGM company to see if they have any financial payment plans available to help afford the costs.

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