Medicare's Competitive Bidding Program for Diabetes Supplies Results in Low Availability of Approved Blood Glucose Monitoring Products
Survey Conducted by AADE Finds That Contract Suppliers Do Not Offer 60 Percent of the Products Promised on Medicare Website
For Release: December 7, 2011
A survey conducted by the American Association of Diabetes Educators has found that nearly one year after its implementation, a competitive bidding program for diabetes testing supplies is failing to provide Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes access to the specific kinds of supplies promised by Medicare.
The competitive bidding program for mail-order suppliers of diabetes testing equipment was established in January 2011 for mail-order services in 9 markets throughout the US. Soon after, widespread anecdotal reports suggested that the suppliers were denying access to the specific brands and types of equipment that had been promised would be available on Medicare.gov.
To determine the veracity of these reports, the American Association of Diabetes Educators surveyed contract suppliers in the nine markets via telephone in August 2011. Surveyors were furnished with a list of contract suppliers and all 20 of the unique suppliers listed were contacted.
The survey found that the contract suppliers, on average, offered only 38 percent of the products that are listed on www.medicare.gov. In some cases, suppliers offered products that were not listed on www.medicare.gov. The results also demonstrated that beneficiaries in competitive bidding areas do not have access to most brands available in the market, or to brands most commonly prescribed by physicians and selected by beneficiaries. Of the 9 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 1.44 brands (16%).
Testing systems are not interchangeable, and physicians often prescribe, and patients often choose, particular meters for important clinical reasons. When a beneficiary is forced to use a testing system that is unknown, difficult confusing or unreliable, their adherence to testing may diminish, increasing the risk of complications which can be costly for Medicare and its 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. And, while offering limited supplies may achieve short-term Medicare program savings, the long-term reality is quite different for beneficiaries of the program and for the overall health care system. Significant additional complications and resulting health care expenditures will result if the quality of blood glucose management deteriorates.”