We would probably all agree that diabetes is anything but a one-size-fits-all condition. This disease takes its own form in each of our bodies and requires different levels of care and treatment.
That being said, why is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) taking steps to create a standardized system of diabetes care through competitive bidding?
CMS is pushing to competitively bid blood glucose meters, test strips and lancets as durable medical equipment (DME). This means that patients using CMS services would not have access to all the equipment that is available on the market, but instead to only a select few items. Plus, they may be forced to change their established routine if their current meter or product is not chosen in the competitive bidding process.
Competitive Bidding Limits Patient Choice
CMS claims that competitive bidding will
- Operationalize and determine appropriate prices for DMEs covered by Medicare Part B
- Protect beneficiary access to quality DMEs
- Reduce the amount Medicare pays for DMEs
- Reduce beneficiary out-of-pocket expenses
My concern is that this system will limit patient choice, access and services.
Choice in diabetes care is critical. It affects a patient psychologically and either plays into the feelings of entrapment or freedom related to the condition.
Limiting choice would only weaken the system and thus damage the already fragile state of care for the elderly population with diabetes.
My grandmother has diabetes. If she were told, at 82, to change her existing routine of blood glucose monitoring and learn a new method, I am not sure what she would do. I do know she wouldn’t be comfortable and confident. Comfort and confidence are critical in chronic disease care, and they are what I wish for most for my granny.
Companies Will Be Unable to Provide Products and Services
The goal should be to get more people testing their glucose more often. If competitive bidding for diabetes equipment happens, I fear that will not be the result.
Another concern is that competitive bidding will impede the services and innovation within the diabetes manufacturing industry. Companies will not be able to afford to create new products, programs and services as they have in the past. For instance, the educational materials and claim-processing services offered by many companies may be discontinued. Currently, neither patients nor Medicare are billed for these services.
These options are vital in managing chronic disease and in reaching the ultimate goal of reducing healthcare costs by limiting the number of complications.
The diabetes community largely disagrees with the CMS’s stance. We feel that glucose monitoring equipment should not be placed in the same category as bedpans and hospital beds.
What Do You Think?
I encourage you to contact your representative in Congress and let him or her know your thoughts about competitive bidding of diabetes equipment. Then, encourage him or her to discuss this subject with CMS. It is important for our government to understand where we, the patients, place value. There has to be another way of saving money that won’t cost diabetes patients quality care, access and choice.