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Diabetes advocates march forward

Diabetes advocates march forward

WASHINGTON - A bill that would protect access to diabetes supplies for Medicare beneficiaries is expected to get introduced in the Senate soon, say advocates.

“I'll be back up (to Washington D.C.) and talking to congressional individuals, as well as mobilizing the patient community, to remind them this is an important issue,” said Christel Aprigliano, CEO of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition.

A bill already introduced in the House of Representatives seeks to strengthen protections requiring mail-order contract suppliers to include at least 50% of the types of testing supplies that were available before the implementation of the competitive bidding program. It would also prohibit suppliers from encouraging beneficiaries to switch brands. “The Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act,” H.R. 3271, was introduced July 17 by Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; Susan Brooks, R-Ind.; and Tom Reed, R-N.Y.

“Why not enforce the rules they implemented?” said Aprigliano. “This would close the loopholes.”

Aprigliano testified at a hearing held by the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Healthin July to review several bills to reform the Medicare program. Ultimately, H.R. 3271 wasn't included in a larger Medicare package that members eventually passed, but she says it's for the best.

“Once the Congressional Budget Office analysis comes out, I believe it will show that our bill is basically cost-neutral, which would allow it to go through easier,” she said. “It's important to highlight this is for diabetes, specifically when so many healthcare dollars are spent on diabetes itself.”

As with other product categories impacted by the competitive bidding program, CMS has maintained there are no access issues for diabetes testing supplies. Aprigliano points to several studies that show otherwise, including a recent secret shopper survey conducted by the American Association of Diabetes Educators that showed the number of brands available under the mail-order program has fallen 50%.

“This is real life,” she said. “It's not just numbers on a page.”


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