Fraud in medicine: Diabetic supplies

There is a subtle ongoing fraud in diabetic supplies for diabetic patients and especially medicare patients.

The fraud is in the paperwork. An order form will arrive for me to sign for Mr. Smith. I read the fine print and it says that all of the supplies on the form will be renewed for Mr. Smith, unless something is crossed out. It lists six supplies: lancets to draw blood, strips for the glucose machine, a new glucometer, a new lancet machine and control solution to check that the machine is working correctly.

This is all good and necessary, right? Maybe.

I call Mr. Smith and say, “What do you need?”

“I just need lancets,” says Mr. Smith. “That’s what I asked the company to refill.” He is wondering why I called, because he only asked for lancets.

I cross everything out but the lancets: because that is where the fraud lies. Mr. Smith only renewed his prescription for the lancets, but the medical supply company knows exactly what interval medicare and the other insurances will pay for all of the supplies. They want me to sign a blanket order and then they will send Mr. Smith a new glucometer every time medicare allows, whether he wants and needs it or not. So if you have visited a parent or family member and wondered why they have a closet or a drawer full of some medical equipment, that is why. The doctor did not read the fine print and signed a blanket order and the patient is getting more equipment than they need or want. This is waste and it costs us all money.

Another fraud in diabetic supplies is in getting the first glucometer. I was taught to send the patient to the [diabetic educator] where they would get a “free” glucometer. However, now I tell them to check their local pharmacy instead. The “free” glucometers have the most expensive strips and lancets, and diabetics are supposed to check blood sugar at least once a day. If the strip costs one dollar, that adds up. The pharmacy often has a house brand where the strips and lancets are less expensive. I give the patient the choice. Most of them choose the house brand.

One diabetic equipment company got a hold of one of my patients and wouldn’t let go. They sent paperwork to me saying that they needed every note back to the date that I had prescribed his equipment and copies of his blood sugar records. I wrote them a letter, saying, “I am sending the notes, but I don’t photo copy the patient’s blood sugar records. You are being unreasonable. My notes contain the records I made about his blood sugars.” The company is in Florida and the patient is in Washington. The company kept demanding the notes, all the way back to the first visit, every two months. After we sent them twice, we sent a letter saying, “We already sent those twice. We’re not doing it again.” They continued to fax renewals. I talked to the patient. He wanted them gone too, because they kept calling him and wanting to send him more supplies. I called them. They did not desist. I sent them a letter and tried calling medicare fraud. The medicare fraud department said, “Call the company.” Now we just shred anything they send us, including the threatening notes saying that medicare will be after me.

The diabetic supplies aren’t terribly expensive, but when there are millions of diabetic people, this adds up. Also, most physicians are so busy that they sign papers without reading all that fine print and don’t have time to check what the patient really needs. And the companies are targeting the frail, sick and elderly, though many diabetics are otherwise healthy. I think it is a shameful scam to have a person call a company and say “I need more lancets,” and then to try to send them more of everything. Isn’t that illegal? It should be, to fill prescriptions that have not been renewed. I am tired of seeing more and more clearly how our United States medical system is a system to make money any way possible, and morals don’t matter, and it has nothing to do with people’s health.
29.1 million diabetics in the US
21.0 million diabetics diagnosed in the US

published on everything2 on November 26, 2014 and on Sermo today