Medicare’s Competitive Bidding Program Fails to Offer Diabetes Supplies as Promised
In some US markets, people with diabetes who are covered by Medicare cannot get the mail order diabetes testing supplies that Medicare promised.
According to the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), the competitive bidding program for diabetes testing supplies is not working as it should. In August 2011, after learning that some suppliers were not offering products listed on the www.medicare.gov website, the AADE formally surveyed contract suppliers by telephone in nine markets in different parts of the US. The organization found that contract suppliers offered an average of only 38 percent of the products listed on www.medicare.gov and, in some cases, offered products not listed on the government website.
The AADE also found that patients who live in competitive bidding areas do not have access to most available brands or to the brands most commonly prescribed by physicians. In fact, of nine brands identified in a December 2010 report as the top mail order diabetes testing supply brands by percent of market share, contract suppliers offered an average of only 1.44 brands (16 percent).
Effective and consistent self-monitoring of blood glucose levels is essential to diabetes control, and testing systems are not interchangeable. Doctors often prescribe, and patients choose, particular products for important clinical reasons. When patients are forced to use an unfamiliar testing system that may be difficult to use or unreliable, they may not test as often as they should. This increases their risk of health complications, which can be costly both for Medicare and for Medicare beneficiaries.
“Under the Competitive Bidding Program, contract suppliers have powerful incentives to maximize profit margins by purchasing and offering a limited range of products and only the lowest cost products available,” said Martha Rinker, chief advocacy officer of the AADE. “We believe this is a violation of the intent of the program.”
Founded in 1973, the AADE is a multidisciplinary professional membership organization dedicated to improving diabetes care through education. With more than 12,000 professional members, including physicians, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists, the AADE has a vast network of practitioners involved in the daily treatment of diabetes patients. To learn more, go to www.diabeteseducator.org.
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