Many insurance companies now offer disease management programs for people with type 2 diabetes or other chronic diseases. The programs "provide a real opportunity for people with diabetes to gain better control of their condition," says Jaan Sidorov, M.D., a former medical director of the Geisinger Health Plan in Pennsylvania who is now an independent health-care consultant.
Unfortunately, some research suggests that less than 20 percent of the patients who could take advantage of these programs actually do. That's partly because insurers often don't do a great job of spreading the word, and partly because many consumers are skeptical of insurers. "By now, patients certainly have reason to be suspicious of insurance companies' efforts to rein in costs," Sidorov says. "But this is a case where your interests and those of the insurance company could go hand in hand."
For example, one way for insurers to keep diabetes costs down could be to reduce the number of serious—and expensive—complications of diabetes, such as heart attacks and amputations, which you want to avoid, too. "So if your insurer contacts you about their diabetes-management program, keep an open mind," Sidorov says. "And if they don't, take a proactive approach and see what they offer."
One of the best parts of many of these programs is round-the-clock access to a registered nurse, who can serve as your health-care coach. "Advice nurses" can typically give you general tips on managing your diabetes, and many will have access to your medical records, so they can provide personalized recommendations. In addition, programs may offer classes (either in person or online), access to informational brochures and Web sites, and even text-messaging alerts and reminders. But remember to confirm the advice you get from these providers with your primary-care doctor, especially if it seems to contradict anything you previously heard. And ask the nurse to keep in touch with your primary doctor so that you don't get lost in the shuffle.