Bill would reimburse for safe needle disposal

Saturday, December 31, 2005

YARMOUTH, Maine - Diabetic needle disposal containers are a low-cost item but providers don't sell many. A new Medicare proposal could change that.
Under H.R. 2841, beneficiaries would be reimbursed under Medicare Part D for costs associated with the disposal of needles and lancets through a sharps-by-mail or similar program or home needle destruction devices.
"Most people use a makeshift jug at home and you just throw it in your trash," said Mark Gielniak, vice president of Diabetes Plus in Warren, Mich.
But coffee cans and laundry jugs can break open in the trash and pose health risks to others. Nationwide, 3 billion needles are disposed of annually outside a healthcare setting.
Most providers keep a few disposal containers on hand.
"We promote sharps disposal now, so this would just enhance that effort, said John Keegan, owner of Heights Terrace Pharmacy & Diabetes Shoppe in Hazleton, Pa.
With a sharps-by-mail program, the costs of the container, plus shipping materials and postage to mail it for incineration, priced in the mid-$20s, would be eligible for coverage.
Another option is a needle-destruction device. Joseph Roth is vice president of government affairs for Berlin Center, Ohio-based Safeguard Medical Technologies, which manufactures an in-home needle destruction device. While he said sales of the product are good, at $79.95 retail, not everyone can afford them.
"When you're looking at the diabetes patient, they're spending a lot at the pharmacy as it is, and they try to keep their spending down as much as possible," said Roth.