Diabetes patients dominate complaint hotline

Friday, October 4, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – Ever since a national mail-order program for diabetes supplies kicked off July 1, beneficiaries have been complaining loud and clear—just not to CMS, say industry stakeholders.

“We get complaints every day on the hotline and the majority of the time, when I am talking to them, it is about diabetes testing supplies,” said Kelly Turner, director of People for Quality Care, which runs a competitive bidding complaint hotline.

Of the 2,154 complaints made to the hotline so far, more than one-third have been from diabetes patients—a number Turner expects to increase as 90-day supplies provided pre-July 1 start running out in October.

Thousands of beneficiaries are also flooding the call centers of diabetes manufacturers, says Andrea Bergman, senior director of legislative and health policy for McDermott Will & Emery, which represents the Diabetes Access to Care Coalition (DACC). The manufacturers and other partner organizations are forwarding call data to the coalition.

“CMS has said that they are not experiencing the same volume of calls,” she said. “We have made sure they know they are welcome to review our call scripts.”

Complaints include providers switching products, delivering unnecessary supplies and providing inaccurate information. Those are concerns that the DACC has had all along, Bergman said.

“We think CMS needs to be more aggressive and work pretty quickly,” she said. “If a provider is switching the patient to another product that the patient isn’t looking for, it’s hard to get the patient to come back. They will just (stop testing).”

Turner has similar concerns about beneficiaries that must obtain new prescriptions when they switch suppliers.

“It’s not easy for some of these people to get out and about to the doctor,” she said.

As always, HME providers on the front lines find themselves doing a fair amount of education. Dan Gooch has received about 1,500 calls so far from beneficiaries who didn’t know about the program. He blames the lack of education by CMS.

“We are literally beginning the conversation with, ‘Have you heard about the bidding program?’” said Gooch, owner of Pal-Med in Columbia, S.C., which is not a contract supplier. “I anticipate the calls to get worse.”