Big Changes! Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Loosen Requirements for Obtaining a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) During COVID-19

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Karena Yan and Kelly Close

In-person visits, lab tests, and finger stick documentation are no longer required at present to get a CGM

Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 21, 2020 to reflect that lab testing is still required for an insulin pump and pump supplies.

High blood sugar levels leave the body vulnerable to infections, meaning those individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. To properly monitor and respond to glucose levels and to strengthen the immune system to fight off infections, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can be very helpful.

If you are on Medicare, obtaining a CGM through your healthcare professional is a relatively involved process, requiring an in-person clinic visit, lab tests, documentation of frequent finger sticks (four or more times a day), and a lot of paperwork. At present, only those on insulin have an opportunity for approval. However, due to COVID-19 and the increased risks it poses for people with diabetes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will not enforce the following criteria for receiving a CGM:

  • In-person clinic visits
  • “Clinical criteria,” including lab tests for C-peptide or auto-antibodies, or demonstration of frequent finger sticks

This means that people with diabetes do not have to go to the doctor’s office or undergo lab tests to receive a CGM. Importantly, these loosened restrictions also reduce the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy for healthcare providers and give them greater flexibility in providing CGMs. Lab testing is still required for insulin pumps and pump supplies.

This increased access to CGMs is a huge win for the many people with diabetes on insulin who would not otherwise be able to get a CGM. Because CGMs provide real-time data for blood sugar levels, users are able to monitor their glucose and proactively adjust their insulin doses. Not only do CGMs help increase time in range, and thus have the opportunity to increase productivity and quality of life, but they can also improve overall diabetes management and can help keep patients out of the hospital.

We hope that in the future, at least those on SFUs will be able to get CGM, as SFUs can prompt hypoglycemia, which is especially dangerous right now, given the importance of staying out of the hospital.

Every person with diabetes can benefit from either a professional CGM used regularly (at least yearly) or a 24/7 CGM. While these new CMS guidelines are temporary in response to COVID-19, we are hoping and advocating for making the changes permanent. With the rise of the Beyond A1C movement and increased awareness of time in range, CGM (24/7 or professional) is an essential tool for people with diabetes to live happy and healthy lives, both during and after COVID-19.

This article is part of a series on time in range maybe possible by support from the Time in Range Coalition. The diaTribe Foundation retains strict editorial independence for all content.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

$35 Insulin on Medicare Pilot: Is This the Beginning of Affordable Insulin for All?

On Tuesday, President Trump held a press conference announcing a new pilot program for seniors on Medicare that would cap the monthly co-payments of insulin to $35. The announcement was attended by senior executives of two main insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, and staff from the American Diabetes Association, as well as the Surgeon General, Jerome Adams.

In typical Trump style, midway through his announcement, he proclaimed, “I don’t use insulin. Should I be? Huh? I never thought about it, but I know a lot of people are very badly affected.” While this comment has created a wave of groans and eye-rolls throughout the diabetes online community, the core of his message is more important: seniors in America will now be more able to comfortably afford their insulin.

For everyone on earth, insulin is a necessary hormone to live. People without diabetes produce insulin endogenously, whereas people with diabetes must take insulin exogenously. Without adequate access to affordable insulin, people with diabetes face serious complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, amputations, and premature death. Unfortunately, the rising costs of insulin over the past few decades have become a major barrier to appropriate management of diabetes. American seniors are some of the hardest hit by the rising costs, who are partially-retired or out of the workforce completely, often trying to survive on smaller, fixed-incomes.

Trump remarked, “Today I’m proud to announce that we have reached a breakthrough agreement to dramatically slash the out-of-pocket cost of insulin. You know what’s happened to insulin over the years, right? Through the roof.”

The pilot program will take effect starting in 2021, and would be part of the enhanced Medicare Part D Senior Savings Model, to which over 1,750 standalone Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans have applied to participate in, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

s$35 Insulin on Medicare Pilot

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

This is a welcome respite from the high cost of insulin for American seniors on Medicare, who, despite being covered by health insurance, sometimes have to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for their monthly insulin prescriptions.

Despite the multitude of executive orders and policy decisions the Administration has made to chip away the Affordable Care Act, this enhancement of American’s largest healthcare social safety net was met with applause from seniors all across America, many of whom have cooled their support of the President since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and our nation’s response to it. This is an excellent first step to ensuring that our aging Americans can afford the insulin they need to take care of themselves.

It is estimated that Medicare beneficiaries (generally Americans over the age of 65) who use insulin and join a plan participating in this pilot could see average savings of $446, or 66% for their insulin every year. The pilot is funded in part by insulin manufacturers who will pay $250 million in discounts over the five years of the pilot. There has been a positive response from Medicare Part D plans nationwide, and CMS predicts coverage in the pilot will be available in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to enroll in a pilot-participating plan during traditional Medicare open enrollment, which is October 15th-December 7th, 2020, for Part D coverage that begins on January 1, 2021.

1 in 3 Medicare beneficiaries has diabetes, and over 3.3 million Medicare beneficiaries use one or more types of insulin, so this change isn’t insignificant. Out-of-pocket spending on insulin by seniors in Medicare Part D quadrupled between 2007 and 2016, from $236 million to $968 million, putting a harsh burden on millions.

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said, “We think that this creates a foundation and a platform to fix some of the problems that we have in the Part D plan (of Medicare). It’s time for that program to be updated.”

While this is a great first step, the pilot is only slated to last for five years, and it will only apply to the Medicare population- generally, people living with diabetes who are 65 and older. This begs the bigger question: how do we afford our insulin before we are eligible for Medicare? How can we ever hope to make it to that point, if insulin is unaffordable every step of the way? Men with type 1 diabetes have an average life expectancy of 66 years, compared with 77 years among men without it. Women with type 1 diabetes have an average life expectancy of 68 years, compared with 81 years for those without diabetes. Realistically, this may not even help people who have diabetes for very long.

We can only hope that this initiative creates enough momentum for the federal government to start capping the actual price of insulin, for the other 7 million Americans who rely on it every day to survive.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Was Your Medicare Claim Rejected? Here’s How to Appeal

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Kara Miecznikowski and Eliza Skoler

Learn how to appeal a Medicare claim rejection under traditional fee-for-service Medicare, a Medicare health plan, or Medicare prescription drug coverage

A health insurance claim is a bill for your healthcare services, medications, or medical equipment that you think should be covered by your insurance plan. If you have Medicare health insurance, your healthcare practitioner will usually submit claims directly to Medicare for payment. If Medicare decides to reject the claim, you can challenge the decision. This is called an appeal.

In the United States, people have the right to appeal a denied claim for up to six months after hearing about this decision. Appeals can often be successful – a 2018 report showed that 75% of Medicare Advantage denials were overturned in the appeals process – which means that challenging a denied claim could save you money. This article will explain how to appeal a Medicare claim rejection.

To learn more about the appeals process in the United States – especially if you have a different health insurance plan – read our article, “When Insurance Gets Turned Down: Appeals Explained.”

How do Medicare appeals work?

You can appeal a decision made by the national Medicare fee-for-service program (Parts A and B), your private Medicare health plan (Part C), or your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D). Learn more about the different types of Medicare here.

Click to jump down to:

Appeals under Medicare Part A or B (“Original Medicare”)

Appeals under Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage health plan)

Appeals under Medicare Part D (prescription drug plan)

Here are some common situations for appealing a claim rejection:

  • If you have already received the service, medication, or medical supplies. Example: your doctor gives you lab tests during a visit, but then Medicare rejects the claim.
  • If your doctor requested the service, medication, or medical supplies for you. Example: your doctor says you need an insulin pump and Medicare decides that is not medically necessary.
  • If you and your doctor request a change in price for your medication, based on what treatments work for you. Example: generic drugs do not work for your condition, so your doctor asks for a discount on the more expensive drug.

The appeals process is different under Medicare Part A, B, C, or D. There are five levels to the appeals process. If you disagree with the appeal decision at level one, you can continue to appeal the decision again at every other level.

With each appeals processes, write your Medicare number on every document you submit for your appeal, and keep a copy of all the materials you send in.

Filing an appeal under Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) or Part B (medical insurance), often called “Original Medicare:”

  • Your bill will be sent directly to Medicare.
  • The appeal must be filed within 120 days of receiving the Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) that shows that your claim was denied.
  • If you disagree with a Medicare coverage decision in the MSN, you can appeal the decision.

A Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) is a summary of the health care services you have received over the past three months, sent to you by mail.  It shows what Medicare paid for each service and what you owe for the service, and it will show if Medicare fully or partially denied a medical claim. The MSN also contains your appeal rights and step-by-step directions on when and how to file an appeal for a claim rejection.

Did you sign an Advanced Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage (ABN) before you received the treatment? An ABN is a notice that your healthcare provider will give you if they think the health services they are recommending might not be covered by Original Medicare. Your ABN will list the items that Medicare is not expected to pay for, as well as the estimated costs of those health services. The ABN can help you decide if you would still like to receive the treatment, and if you will pay for it if Medicare declines to cover the cost.

When you sign an ABN you can ask your healthcare provider to submit the claim to Medicare (before billing you), asking Medicare to cover the cost. If Medicare rejects the claim, you can appeal the decision. If your healthcare provider did not give you an ABN before treatment, you might not be responsible for paying for the health service. Learn more ABNs and appeals here.

There are three different ways to file an initial appeal under Original (Part A or B) Medicare:

appeals

Image source: iStock Photo

  • Fill out a “Redetermination Request Form” with information from your MSN; send the form to the address provided on your MSN
  • Follow instructions on your MSN for filing an appeal without using the form:
  1. Circle the claim that you disagree with on your MSN
  2. On a separate piece of paper, explain why you disagree with the decision
  3. Write your name, address, phone number, and Medicare number on the MSN, and sign it
  4. If you have any other information that will support your case, include it; you can ask your doctor or other health care provider to help you
  5. Send all of the above materials to the address listed under “Appeals Information” on your MSN
  • Or, send a written request to the company that processes Medicare claims. Include:
  1. Your name and Medicare number
  2. The item that you disagree with on the MSN
  3. An explanation of why you disagree with the decision
  4. Your signature
  5. Send all of the above to the address provided under “Appeals Information” on the MSN

You should receive a decision within 60 days of your request, unless you submit extra information after you first file the appeal (which may delay the decision).

For more information on the Original Medicare initial appeals process, see the Medicare webpage. If you disagree with the appeal decision at the first level, you have 180 days to file an appeal at the second level; information on the appeals process beyond level one can be found here.

Filing an appeal under Part C (Medicare Advantage health plans):

  • The initial appeal must be filed within 60 days of receiving the claim rejection.
  • You must send a written request (unless your plan allows you to file a standard request by phone, fax, or email instead).

In your request, include:

  1. Your name, address, and Medicare number
  2. The item you disagree with, the date that you received the service, and an explanation of why you disagree with the decision
  3. Any other information that may support your case

You should receive a decision about your appeal within 60 days, unless Medicare needs more time to obtain information from your healthcare provider. If waiting for a decision will hurt your health, your appeal decision will be made within seven days.

If your appeal is rejected (fully or partially), your request will automatically be sent to level two of the appeals process. More information on the initial appeals process under Medicare Part C can be found here. For information on the process after level one, click here.

Filing an exception request or appeal under Medicare Part D (prescription drug plans):

  • Reasons to request an exception to your Part D drug plan:
    • If your plan decides not to provide a medication you think should be covered.
    • If cheaper versions of your medication don’t work for you, you can ask for a discount on the more expensive medication.
    • If a drug you need is not on your plan’s drug list, you can ask for an exception.
  • An exception request must be submitted first; if your exception request is denied, you have 60 days to appeal the prescription drug claim rejection.
  • You must send a written request (unless your plan allows you to file it in another way).

An “Evidence of Coverage” document explains your rights with your Medicare prescription drug plan. You have the right to ask your plan to pay for a medication you think should be covered, and you have the right to request an appeal if you disagree with your plan’s decision to provide it.

appeals

Image source: iStock Photo

Before appealing a claim rejection, you will request an exception:

  1. Fill out a Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Determination request form through your insurance plan sponsor
  2. Ask the healthcare provider who prescribed your medication to write a letter explaining why you need this medication
  3. Send the documents to your Medicare health plan

You should hear back about your request within 72 hours. If your exception is denied, you can appeal the claim rejection. To submit a written appeals request, include:

  1. Your name, address, and Medicare number
  2. The drug you want your plan to cover
  3. An explanation of why you are appealing the coverage decision.
  4. Any other information that may support your case, including medical records
  5. Send the documents to your Medicare health plan

You should receive a decision within seven days. If waiting for a decision will hurt your health, your appeal decision will be made within 72 hours.

More information on the initial prescription drug appeals process can be found here. If your request is not met (fully or partially), you have 60 days to appeal the decision at the next level; learn about further appeals here.

How can I get help filing an appeal?

You can have someone else file an appeal for you. This can be a family member, friend, lawyer, doctor, or anyone else that has agreed to be your representative. For more information and the representative form, see the Medicare website page on how to appoint a representative. For prescription drug appeals, your doctor or prescriber can request an initial appeal for you; you do not need to first fill out a form.

For more help with appeals, especially appeals beyond level one, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP is a network of free counseling services that help people navigate Medicare; find the SHIP program in your state here.

diaTribe Series

Image source: diaTribe

This article is part of a series on access that was made possible by support from AstraZeneca. The diaTribe Foundation retains strict editorial independence for all content. 

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Ways to Save Money on Diabetes Expenses

Diabetes is an expensive disease. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), diabetes is the costliest disease in the United States. In 2017 alone, over $327 billion dollars was spent on people with diabetes and their needs, and that number has only increased since, as prevalence and incidence of the disease have risen as well.

Diabetes is also expensive, personally. Between medications, doctors’ appointments, time off work and school, buying healthy foods, and committing to an exercise routine, it can be troublesome to keep on top of all the bills and expenses. A landmark Yale study recently showed that as many as 1 in 4 people with diabetes have rationed their insulin, simply because it’s too expensive.

So, how do you prepare for the cost of a new type 2 diabetes diagnosis? In part 2 of our 4-part series, we dive into how to protect yourself from the high costs of diabetes.

Prescription Assistance Programs

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about prescription assistance programs. They can help you get free or lower-cost drugs, especially if your income is low or you don’t have health insurance. Online resources, such as RxAssist, can also point you in the right direction towards prescription drug cost relief.  You can also get lower-cost care at a Federally Qualified Health Center, if you meet certain eligibility requirements.

Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Section 125 Plan (If They Have One)

These flexible spending arrangements let you contribute up to $2,650 per year (pre-tax!) to spend on out-of-pocket expenses for things like prescription drugs and copays for doctor visits. These plans usually adhere to a “use it or lose it” policy, so make sure you’re spending down anything left over in these accounts towards the end of your enrollment year (usually in December every year).

Enroll in Medicare

Many people 65 and older are not enrolled in Medicare, but if you’re diagnosed with diabetes, it’s highly recommended that you take advantage of this program. Medicare Part B covers a portion of bi-annual diabetes screenings, diabetes self-management education classes, insulin pumps and glucometers, and regular foot and eye exams. Medicare Part D covers insulin expenses. Learn more about the Medicare application process here.

Mail Order Your Supplies

If you’re able, use mail order to get recurring medications and supplies (you can sign up through your existing pharmacy). Oftentimes, you can buy a 90-day supply of your medicine for a single copay, instead of three separate copayments for three separate months. Mail-order supplies are bulk packaged and shipped to your home. This can be an excellent alternative if it’s hard to leave your home, and if you know you’ll need the same medication consistently, for months at a time. It’s also helpful in saving you money. Additionally, a lot of (over the counter) supplies can be bought in bulk from online retailers like Amazon for a fraction of the price you’d pay at a traditional pharmacy.

Ask Your Doctor About Generic Drugs

Although there is no generic form of insulin, many pills taken for type 2 diabetes are available in generic form. A bottle of Glucophage (60 tablets) costs around $80, but the generic form (metformin) will cost you about $10. Talk to your healthcare provider about generic options that are available to you.

Taking these small steps can add up to big savings over time, and can help you to live a long, healthy life, without the threat of complications. Plus, saving money on your diabetes supplies can help you invest in other (more fun) areas of life!

Have you found ways to better budget for your diabetes? How have you saved money for this costly condition? Share this post and comment below!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

How Does Medicare Cover Diabetes in 2019?

By Danielle Kunkle In simple terms, diabetes is a condition that causes your blood to have high quantities of sugar. This happens because the natural insulin that your body produces is lacking in quantity or otherwise unable to turn the glucose into energy as it should. Diabetes can affect all age groups, but 25% of […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

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