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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2018

The association between insurance coverage for insulin pen needles and healthcare resource utilization among insulin-dependent patients with diabetes in China

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Linong Ji, Arthi Chandran, Timothy J. Inocencio, Zilin Sun, Qifu Li, Guijun Qin, Zheng Wei, Stefan DiMario, Richard H. Chapman



Pen needles are an important component of insulin delivery among patients with diabetes, but are not universally covered in China. We compared clinical and economic characteristics of insulin-dependent patients in China who have some level of pen needle (PN) reimbursement to those with no PN reimbursement.


A cross-sectional study was conducted among 400 insulin users with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes treated in outpatient endocrinology units of four large tertiary care hospitals in Nanjing, Chongqing, Beijing and Zhengzhou. Demographics, medical history, healthcare resource utilization (RU), out-of-pocket costs, insurance and PN reimbursement status were surveyed. Unit costs were assigned to healthcare RU and compared using descriptive statistics and multivariate regression models.


A total of 400 patients were analyzed; 142 (35.5%) with some level of PN coverage/reimbursement and 258 (64.5%) without. Patients without PN reimbursement had a higher prevalence of lipohypertrophy (59.3% vs. 40.7%, p = 0.0007), greater median PN reuse (12 vs. 7 times per needle, p < 0.0001), greater 6-month insulin costs (1591 vs. 1328 Renminbi [RMB], p = 0.0025) and total unadjusted 6-month expenditures (6433 vs. 4432 RMB, p < 0.0001), respectively. After controlling for clinical and demographic characteristics, patients without PN reimbursement had 4.6 times greater odds of high costs compared to those with PN reimbursement.


Insulin users without PN reimbursement may pose a greater economic burden to China compared to those with PN reimbursement. Expansion of insurance coverage for insulin PNs can improve the quality of care and potentially help reduce the economic burden in this population.
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