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Look what showed up on our porch last night, via UPS:

Countour Next Link

The Contour Next Link Wireless Blood Glucose Monitoring System. A gift from Medtronic (the maker of my insulin pump). Also included was the Contour® CHOICE Card for purchasing the meter’s custom test strips at a reduced cost.

I have mixed feelings about these gifts in part because of an illuminating story I heard in 2009 on This American Life that discusses the origin of prescription savings cards and their role in driving up the cost of insurance premiums. (If you’re curious, listen to This American Life’s Episode #392: Someone Else’s Money.)

Back to the gifted meter – I’m already acquainted with this device because just two weeks ago my endocrinologist suggested I consider getting one. In fact, she gave me the very same discount card. Was she recommending the meter because of its accuracy? No, not necessarily. But with Medtronic having acquired Bayer in 2012, she hoped that the strips might become more affordable. Hmmm. As she handed me the savings card I silently regarded her and wondered if she listened to This American Life.

In truth, I probably should replace my meter. Per their manufacturers, for the sake of accuracy, meters should be replaced every year or two.

The one I currently use (Bayer’s Contour USB) dates back to 2010.

Its back up (Abbott’s FreeStyle Lite) is from 2003.

And the back up for the back up? Abbott’s FreeStyle – 1998. So old I can't even find it online anymore. [And yet, it's my all-time favorite – both the smallest and the one that requires the tiniest drop of blood.]

Glucometers are essential for diabetes management, but the cost to use them is substantial.

The meters themselves are a one-time cost (and can often be obtained for free). It’s the strips that add up. As my husband likes to say, “That’s how they getcha.”

I currently spend around $36 for 100 test strips. Largely because of the expense, I test my blood sugar only a couple times of a day. The savings card would make my pharmacy co-pay very affordable (at least for the first 12mos). I would pay $15 instead of $36, so for less than half the cost, I could test more frequently and have more data. The temptation is real; diabetes is expensive.

What would you do?

Highlight the three lines below this sentence and you’ll see what I plan to do.

I’m going to give this meter a try and see first how I like it. I’m also going to bring it with me to my next endo appointment and test right after my doctor collects my blood sample. That way, I can compare the accuracy of its results with the ones from the lab. If this meter has the best results, I will use it.