FRIDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Starting July 1, seniors
with diabetes should be able to save some money when they buy the
blood sugar testing supplies they need to monitor their
That's when Medicare kicks off a new cost-saving program that
will require beneficiaries to order these supplies through a
national mail-order program or a Medicare-approved pharmacy.
Right now, Medicare pays about $77.90 per month for 100 blood
sugar test strips and lancets (the needles used to prick the finger
to draw a drop of blood), according to the Center for Medicare and
Medicare recipients currently pay 20 percent of that cost, which
averages to $15.58 a month. Once the national mail-order program
kicks in, the total cost will drop to $22.47, due to a competitive
bidding process. That means the cost to the Medicare recipient will
only be around $4.50.
Over a year, each person with diabetes on traditional Medicare
will save $133.
"We're hopeful that approved providers for diabetic testing
supplies will offer people a better value for their needed
mail-order purchases and ensure that consumers and taxpayers are
getting the best price for their supplies," said Ariel Gonzalez,
director of federal health and family advocacy for AARP.
This change is expected to affect 2.3 million Medicare
beneficiaries who are on traditional fee-for-service Medicare. This
change doesn't apply to people on Medicare Advantage plans, such as
an HMO or PPO, according to the CMS.
The program is part of a competitive bidding process initially
set up in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and
Modernization Act of 2003. The competitive bidding process applies
not only to diabetic testing supplies, but also to other types of
medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds and
oxygen equipment. It's expected to save taxpayers nearly $26
billion between 2013 and 2022, according to CMS. The program is
also expected to save an additional $17.2 billion for Medicare
beneficiaries during that same time period.
So, if you're on traditional Medicare and you need diabetic
testing supplies, you may need to make some changes to how you
order supplies. The first step is to find a national mail-order
supplier. You can do this by visiting medicare.gov/supplier or by
calling 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). They can give you a list of
suppliers who are under contract with Medicare to provide the new
If you prefer getting your supplies locally, you can also get
your supplies from a pharmacy or store that accepts Medicare
assignment, according to CMS. Ask your pharmacist if they accept
Medicare assignment before getting your prescription filled. Any
pharmacy or store that says it accepts Medicare assignment can only
charge you for any unmet deductible (Medicare Part B) and your 20
percent coinsurance. Stores and pharmacies that
don'taccept Medicare assignment can charge you more.
The cost of diabetic supplies will be the same for mail-order
suppliers and pharmacies or stores that accept Medicare assignment,
according to CMS.
The national mail order program applies to people with both type
1 and type 2 diabetes. It covers blood sugar test strips, control
solution for the test strips, lancets, the lancing device and
batteries for your blood sugar monitor.
National mail-order suppliers have to include coverage for more
than 50 percent of the currently available test strips on the
market, according to CMS. If the supplier you've chosen doesn't
offer your brand of test strips, ask your doctor if you can use an
alternative brand. If there's a medical reason for you to use a
particular test strip, your doctor can document this, and the
supplier can either given you the exact brand you need, or help you
find another supplier who will.
Unsolicited phone calls from mail order suppliers aren't allowed
under CMS rules. If you get a call pressuring you to switch
suppliers, report the call to Medicare at the phone number given
above. In addition, CMS recommends never giving your Medicare
number or personal information to anyone who calls you.
Learn more about the national mail-order program from