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COVID-19 Access Programs – Here to Stay or Gone Tomorrow

Last updated: 4/5/21

By Julia Kenney

Have you or someone you know had trouble affording diabetes care during COVID-19? During the pandemic, healthcare companies have created programs to help people get diabetes medications and devices. More than a year into COVID, which access programs exist, and how long we can expect them to stay in place?

The pandemic has made it more important than ever for people with diabetes to have access to care and treatment to properly manage blood glucose levels. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications – especially those who experience frequent high blood sugars.

But for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to get healthcare. Some people have lost their job and health insurance, making it hard to afford diabetes care. For others, it has been difficult to get diabetes medications, clinical appointments, or devices while maintaining social distancing.

COVID-19 access programs – created by the government, device companies, insulin manufacturers, and health insurance companies – are designed to help lower the costs of insulin and other diabetes medications, distribute medications and devices to people who are newly uninsured, and make it easier to use telehealth services. Though some programs ended in 2020, others will continue through the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Below you can find information on COVID-19 access programs, who is eligible, and how to get involved.

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Paying for Insulin

Lilly Insulin Value Program: In April 2020, Eli Lilly announced a new COVID-19 access program that limits insulin prescription costs to $35 a month for people who are uninsured or have commercial insurance. The program covers most Lilly insulins, including Humalog, and the $35 cap applies regardless of how much insulin you need.

  • Am I eligible? People who are uninsured or have commercial insurance are eligible for this program.

  • How long will the program last? While the program was initially intended to support people with diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lilly announced in September 2020 that the $35 insulin program will be a permanent offering. If you were part of the Lilly Insulin Value Program in 2020, you need to renew your savings card for 2021; to renew, click here or call 833-808-1234.

  • How can I apply? You can access this program by visiting www.insulinaffordability.com and printing or downloading a PDF of the co-pay card to your mobile device.

  • Click here to learn more about the Lilly Insulin Value Program and other ways Lilly can help you pay for insulin.

NovoCare: In April 2020, Novo Nordisk announced that people who have lost their job and health insurance during COVID-19 may be eligible for its NovoCare patient assistance program. The program offers eligible people with diabetes free insulin for 90 days.

  • Am I eligible? You must be uninsured to qualify. Applicants must provide documentation of a loss of healthcare benefits. Find out if you are eligible at NovoCare.com.     

  • How long will the program last? Novo Nordisk will extend its NovoCare COVID-19 assistance through June 30, 2021. 

  • How can I apply? To apply for the NovoCare COVID-19 program, fill out the application, provide proof of loss of health insurance, and ask your healthcare professional to submit your completed application. Assistance can be extended after 90 days for individuals who have been denied Medicaid Coverage.

  • Click here to learn more about the NovoCare program and other ways NovoNordisk can help you pay for insulin.

Sanofi: While Sanofi does not have a distinct COVID-19 access program, the company has expanded its assistance program to support insulin users during the pandemic. The Sanofi program helps commercially insured, uninsured, and middle-to-low income people with diabetes access insulin.

Paying for Diabetes Devices

Dexcom COVID-19 Assistance Program: In April 2020, Dexcom announced a new patient assistance program for current US customers who have lost their health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible customers can get up to two 90-day supply shipments, containing one transmitter and three boxes of three CGM sensors, for $45 each. Learn more here.

  • Am I eligible? Current Dexcom CGM users who live in the US and are uninsured due to the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for this program. People that have their Dexcom CGM covered by a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid are not eligible. Learn more about eligibility for this program here.

  • How long will the program last? Dexcom does not plan to continue the program after the COVID-19 pandemic but has not yet announced an end date. The program is still available to current US customers.

  • How can I apply? If you think you qualify for Dexcom’s COVID-19 assistance program, fill out this online form and submit documentation of your loss of healthcare benefits. 

Medtronic COVID-19 Assistance Program: In June 2020 Medtronic expanded its Assurance Program to support people who have lost their job and health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Current customers may be eligible to receive a three-month supply of glucose sensors, infusion sets, and reservoirs for free. There are also options for payment deferral, as well as a CGM discount for anyone without insurance coverage.

  • Am I eligible? Current Medtronic customers who have lost their job and health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to apply. You must provide documentation showing loss of employment and health insurance benefits after March 15, 2020. If you are a new customer and don’t have insurance, check out the CGM Access Discount program.

  • How long will the program last? Medtronic has not announced an end date for the program and it will likely last through the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency that is set to end in April. The program is still available to current Medtronic customers.

  • How do I apply? Fill out a short online application or call 1-800-646-4633 and select option 4. You will need documentation showing loss of employment and health insurance benefits after March 15, 2020. On the website you will also find other financial assistance opportunities.

Insulet Omnipod COVID-19 Assistance Program: In April 2020 Insulet announced a COVID-19 assistance program for Omnipod users. Customers who lost their health insurance during the pandemic were eligible to receive a six-month supply of insulin pods for free. However, the program expired at the end of 2020, and it is no longer available. Look here for more financial assistance for the Insulet Omnipod system.

Abbott FreeStyle Patient Assistance Program: Abbott does not have a COVID-19 assistance program but does have a permanent patient assistance program to help people get FreeStyle blood glucose meters and test strips for free or at a reduced cost. Eligibility is based on insurance status and income level. Learn more here.

Insurance Company Access Programs

BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS): All 36 US and Puerto Rico BCBS companies announced a national COVID-19 coverage plan. This includes “waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day prescriptions” and encouraging members to use the 90-day mail order option. All fully-insured, individual, and Medicare BCBS members are eligible for these benefits. BCBS has not announced an end date for this program.

Aetna: During the COVID-19 pandemic Aetna is providing 90-days of medications to its members and people on Medicare. Aetna members can also get free home delivery for their medications. These benefits are available through the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Look here to learn more.

UnitedHealthcare: In 2020, UnitedHealthcare members could fill a 90-day supply of prescriptions early, with many prior authorization requirements paused. However, these benefits have now expired. UnitedHealthcare members can still access prescriptions through mail order.

Anthem: In 2020 Anthem relaxed early prescription refill limits for some medications, encouraged members to ask their healthcare team for 90-day prescriptions, and began offering free home delivery for 90-day prescriptions. The program is still in effect – learn more here

Government Access Programs

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): In April 2020, CMS revised its criteria to make it easier to obtain a CGM during the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person clinic visits and lab tests and finger stick requirements are not needed to receive a CGM. This change to Medicare CGM requirements is temporary and will last through the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. However, several diabetes organizations, including diaTribe, are advocating to permanently expand access to CGM.

Insulin Price Caps: Several states have passed permanent legislation that caps the price of insulin for people with commercial insurance. The price caps range from $25-$100 for a 30-day supply of insulin. In total, 39 states have either passed or proposed legislation to cap insulin copays. 13 states have insulin price cap laws in effect: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

To learn more about diabetes and COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 resource page. For more resources on accessing and affording diabetes treatment, click here.

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