Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.

Need to choose—or find a way to get your hands on—a new glucose meter? You've come to the right place.

Shopping for a meter

You’re going to carry your meter with you everywhere, so you want to find a system that you like, meaning you understand the device’s features and you’re comfortable using it.

Here are 10 key features to consider:

  1. Meter size. Small is handy, but it may be easier to misplace.
  2. Test sample. How much blood is needed to activate the test? Less is better.
  3. Test time window. How long do you have to get blood on the strip?
  4. Length of test. How long does it take to get results? Look for five seconds or fewer.
  5. Font size and lighting. How easy is it to read the results window?
  6. Meter memory options. Newer models tend to have more options.
  7. Alternate site testing. How easy is it to use the meter on the forearms or thighs?
  8. Test strip handling system. Does it use individual test strips or contain a "drum" allowing multiple tests?
  9. Integration. Does the meter communicate with a pump or a software program for results tracking?
  10. Test strip cost.* Be sure to check with your health insurance plan in advance to find out which test strips will be cheapest for you; this may be the deciding factor in your choice of meter.

These days, many meters are available for free through your doctor or Certified Diabetes Educator. If you have to buy one at the drug store, prices range from about $30 to $120. It’s the test strips that are expensive. If you don't have insurance, you’ll want to compare the current cost of test strips, which can run anywhere from $0.40 to $1 or more per strip.

Financial assistance

If you don’t have insurance and need some help, you can look into the following:

Free meter offers online. If you search for “free glucose meter,” a lot of offers will come up. Most of them will ask you questions to determine if you “qualify” for the offer. Generally they’re looking for people who are frequent testers (who will be good customers for their test strips going forward), so be sure to check off the boxes indicating that you test often.

Here are a few offers to try out:

Patient assistance programs. Many pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs for people who are struggling financially. Have a look at these links for more information:

Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Islets of Hope

Finding a meter can be overwhelming. Discuss your options with your doctor, and keep an eye out for cost-saving measures you can take to get the most out of the meter you choose.

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