Diabetes coalition casts watchful eye

Thursday, July 31, 2008

WASHINGTON--When competitive bidding launched July 1, the Diabetes Access to Care Coalition (DACC) stood ready to help beneficiaries and track problems.

“CMS did two demonstrations that didn’t include diabetic supplies,” said Tim Trysla, executive director.

“We actually think this is going to cost the government more money and confuse and abuse the patients.”

The coalition formed in 2005 to address issues relating to NCB and preserve consumer access to products, services and education. It is comprised of diabetes educators, suppliers, manufacturers and caregivers.

On June 18, DACC launched a Web site, www.diabetesaccess2care.org, and a toll-free NCB hotline.

“Diabetes educators and others have teamed up to make sure people who are going to be confused have a place to get answers about this program,” Trysla said.

The call center allows DACC to triage the most common calls and provide immediate feedback to CMS, he said.

DACC is also working with George Washington University to develop a patient survey gauging how patients are managing with the changed market in the first 10 CBAs. It also hopes to learn how better to move forward with an expansion of the program.

Competitive bidding is a model that could save taxpayers money, but with a few caveats, said Trysla.

Among his chief concerns: The products need exact coding so there isn’t a lot of variance in technology; and the burden of ordering is not placed solely on beneficiaries who are not used to dealing with market-based incentives to figure out what Medicare may cover.

“When you put suppliers in control of a diverse product selection, you put incentives on them to market on the margins,” he said. “It’s not the patient or physician having a say. In relation to this disease, it’s too important to leave this up to a supplier and a telemarketer over the phone.”