Hemoglobin A1C Test Overview

One of the quickest ways to measure a patient’s overall level of blood sugar control is with the A1C test.  This simple blood test is used to diagnose diabetes and to gauge how well diabetics are controlling their blood sugar levels over the past two or three months. The A1C test goes by many names, such as hemoglobin A1C, HbA1c, glycated hemoglobin, and glycosylated hemoglobin.

Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage plans will pay 80% of the Medicare-approved amount for Hemoglobin A1C tests when the Medicare-enrolled attending physician says they are medically necessary. Your doctor will probably request the A1C test in the process of diagnosing diabetes. This establishes a baseline A1C level, and the test will likely be repeated every two or three months while you’re learning to control your blood sugar.

Later, how often you need the A1C test depends on the type of diabetes you have, whether or not you’re taking insulin, and how well you’re managing your blood sugar. Type 1 diabetics typically are given the A1C test three or four times a year (more often than type 2 diabetics).  If your doctor changes your diabetes treatment plan or you begin taking a new diabetes medication, your doctor will probably request the A1C test more often for a while until you adjust.

For someone who doesn’t have diabetes, a normal A1C level can range from 4.5 to 6 percent. A result between 6 and 6.5 percent is considered prediabetic; an A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests points to a diagnosis of diabetes. A common goal for diabetics is an A1C number of no higher than 7, which is equivalent to an average blood sugar reading of 150. Someone who’s had uncontrolled diabetes for a long time might have an A1C level above 9 percent. The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control, and your risk of diabetes complications goes up.

Keeping your A1C number low minimizes the risk of complications due to diabetes. Since the A1C test measures your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months instead of at only one moment, it is a valid indicator of how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.

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