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Guest Column: Diabetics on Medicare face critical deadline, need information

June 26, 2013

By Terry Blankenship

If you have diabetes and are on Medicare, you have an important decision to make in less than one month.

You have probably heard that Medicare is changing the system through which you get your diabetes testing supplies. So, unlike now, when you can order supplies from thousands of mail order companies, beginning July 1, you’ll only be able to order from 18.

There is little question this new system will be better in the long run. The government will save money and you will see your co-pay and deductible amounts decrease. For example, patients testing one time a day, before July 1, have an average co-pay of approximately $14.47 on their testing supplies. After July 1, for the same order, the co-pay will decrease to approximately $4.49. This is a savings to you of almost 70 percent! The actual cost may be even lower, or no cost at all if you have secondary insurance.

Yet, despite these significant benefits, in the short-term, this new system is causing confusion for patients who must change providers. They don’t know where to begin. And this makes them vulnerable to scammers who might see an opportunity to trick patients into giving personal information.

At Diabetes Care Club, we have heard these types of concerns from people who call searching for a new provider. They are rightly apprehensive about moving to another company, and don’t know exactly what questions to ask.

Patients wonder what matters most when choosing a provider. And, of course, the answer to that question depends on what the patient values most. Still, after years in the diabetes care industry, I believe there are some key points that patients and their caregivers should consider before selecting a provider to trust with their health care needs.

How much experience does the provider have? A provider should have a proven record of excellence in distributing diabetes supplies and responding to large numbers of customers. If you receive a call or e-mail from a provider and are unsure of their legitimacy, it is important to check your sources before providing any personal information. Medicare will not call patients about this change, so if you receive a call claiming to be from Medicare, it is a scam.

Is the provider big enough to handle more customers without disruption? A provider should be able to explain in detail how it has prepared to take on thousands of new customers beginning July 1.

Is diabetes the provider’s main focus? Ideally, a provider should make diabetes care its top priority, rather than spreading its resources over a range of medical issues.

What ordering options does the provider offer? A provider should allow patients to order testing supplies by phone, e-mail or online, and offer convenient hours for customer support.

Does the provider accept “assignment?” All mail-order providers must accept assignment, which means they cannot charge more than the prices set by Medicare. But retail outlets like pharmacies do not have to accept assignment and can charge more. It is important to ask to make sure you are not paying added costs.

What products does the provider stock? A quality provider should offer a range of products so patients can get a product that best meets their needs.

Does the provider handle all the paperwork? A quality provider will handle any paperwork associated with Medicare, saving patients time and effort with these confusing forms.

Does the provider deliver on time and for free? Patients should expect their provider to cover the costs of shipping and guarantee that testing supplies will arrive on time and in proper condition.

I also recommend that patients and their caregivers visit www.NationalDiabetesSupplyFinder.com, a website that helps people find the names of all 18 providers authorized by Medicare and link to their services. Additionally, you can contact Medicare directly.

My hope is that by arming people with a few key questions and more information, we can help them make a seamless and stress-free switch to a provider they trust. In that way, they will be able to rest assured after July 1 that their supplies will be waiting for them in the mailbox, just as always.

Terry Blankenship is vice president of patient care at Diabetes Care Club, the nation’s third-largest provider of diabetic testing supplies and one of only 18 companies authorized to serve Medicare patients. He invites people to e-mail questions to tblankenship@simplexhealthcare.com. For more about Diabetes Care Club, visit www.diabetescareclub.com, or call 1-800-376-7521.

Posted June 26, 2013

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