Tech watch: CGMs change game for diabetes

By Theresa Flaherty, Managing Editor
Friday, October 9, 2015

WASHINGTON – Diabetes advocates say it’s high time for Medicare to cover continuous glucose monitors.

“CGMs have evolved a lot in recent years and they are a wonderful tool for people that are not sensitive to their lows,” said Bennet Dunlap, president of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group for diabetes patients. “As people get older, they are less aware of their lows.”

The devices track glucose levels in real time, allowing users to respond to highs or lows sooner. But such technology doesn’t come cheap—even with insurance. The cost of the device, itself, can range from $500 to $1,000 and ongoing costs can be several hundred dollars per month, according to an article in Diabetes Forecast, the consumer magazine published by the American Diabetes Association.

With an estimated 97,000 Americans admitted to hospital emergency rooms each year for insulin errors, however, it’s pennywise and pound foolish for Medicare not to cover CGMs, says Dunlap.

“We’re incurring all these costs from insulin errors, but we won’t given them a tool?” he said. “That doesn’t seem right to me.”

The Medicare CGM Access Act of 2015, introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in March by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., have 20 and 142 co-sponsors, respectively.

Provider Lisa Feierstein offers CGMs, primarily to pediatric patients.

“We talk a lot with parents and it’s changing how they are managing their children’s diabetes,” said Feierstein, founder of Raleigh, N.C.-based Active Healthcare. “It’s preventing a lot of issues. I’d say it’s a game changer.”