Reform bill no obstacle for diabetes provider

Saturday, January 31, 2004

WAKEFIELD, Mass. - Louis Belmonte, president of the Neighborhood Diabetes Shoppe, refused to take the Medicare Prescription Drug Act’s string of abusive DME cuts lying down. Instead, Belmonte has stretched the legs of the 5-year-old business, adding new services and contracts in an attempt to limit the business’s dependence on Medicare.
No worries. Staff at the Neighborhood Diabetes Shoppe is pleased with the steps they have taken to limit the effect of the Medicare Prescription Drug Act on their business.

“We knew the bill was coming down the pike, and that it was inevitable that it was going to happen,” said Belmonte. “So, as soon as we heard that we decided you might as well plan for the worst.”

The Neighborhood Diabetes Shoppe, a provider of blood glucose management products and support to people with diabetes, found that nearly 75% of its patients were enrolled in the Medicare program. Seeing this as a weakness, Belmonte began “aggressively” seeking managed care contracts at the beginning of 2003 as a means of “getting my eggs out of the Medicare basket,” he said.

In addition, NDS revamped its support services, developing a disease management program tailored toward individualized diabetes education and nutrition therapy.

NDS staff, including certified diabetes educators, a registered dietician and a nutritionist, will work closely with each patient’s physician to improve his diabetes management and control.

“Anybody can ship somebody a piece of medical equipment, but we are all about taking that next step and making sure that people know how to use it,” said Belmonte.

Belmonte said the shop’s services have been slowly evolving since it opened in 1998. Free in-home equipment training was added first followed by education on diabetes management. NDS also mails out a monthly nutritional newsletter to its patients.

Despite recent setbacks, Belmonte is confident that NDS’s recent changes will help it weather the storm.

“Diabetes is such a prevalent disease right now and there is such a lack of resources for people with diabetes that there is no way it can’t be successful,” he said.