Survey: Downward spiral for diabetes test supplies

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Monday, April 24, 2017

CHICAGO – Dwindling choices and conflicting information about diabetes supplies available under the national mail-order program will have long-term ramifications for beneficiaries, says a new survey from the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

“Diabetes testing systems and supplies are the cornerstone of patient self-management,” said Kurt Anderson, AADE director of federal and state advocacy. “It’s just such a cost effective way to treat diabetes and, in particular, just being able to get people their supplies make all the difference.”

The “secret shopper” survey found that: The number of brands available under the mail-order program has fallen 50%; many suppliers do not offer models covering 50% of the market share of diabetes testing supplies and; suppliers do not provide consistent information about inventory to customers.

Contract suppliers are not allowed to switch brands on Medicare beneficiaries—or even suggest a different brand—unless the beneficiary asks, says Kellie Antinori-Lent, a diabetes clinical nurse specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 

They are doing it anyway, she said.

“If the beneficiary calls to see if they can get the brand meter they are using, the supplier would say, ‘Oh, it’s Medicare, we only give these meters those patients,” she said.

Unfortunately, when beneficiaries can’t get the brand they want, many will simply stop testing, says Antinori-Lent.

“They just decide, ‘I am not going to do this,’” she said. “It impacts their everyday life.”

The survey—the association’s third since the mail-order program launched—echoes past findings from 2011 and 2013, says Anderson. Those findings, in turn echo a 2015 study by the National Minority Quality Forum that found a correlation between the difficulty beneficiaries experienced getting needed supplies and a higher number of deaths and hospitalizations in the test markets.

“We hope that the new administration will be willing to take a serious look at this,” said Anderson. “(Health and Human Services) Secretary Price is a doctor and our understanding is that this is an issue he was interested in.”