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Diabetes Supply Orders: Solve the Riddle

Recently, while on hold with a supplies mail order company a Knock, Knock! joke popped into my head:

Knock, knock!

> Who’s there?
Banana.

Banana who?

Knock, knock!

>Who’s there?
Banana.

Banana who?

Knock, knock!

>Who’s there?
Orange!

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana? ;-)

diabetes supplies shortage

Maybe it was because it was the third call I made for the same question that yet remained unanswered.  Maybe it was because this call started off the same exact way the prior two calls started.  Maybe it was the mind-numbing hold music.  When the customer service representative said, “let me transfer you to the department that can help” I almost laughed.

I almost laughed, not because it was funny, but because I was beyond frustrated.  I added up the time from the three phone calls for this one, tiny, question that stood between me and my son getting the correct pump supplies shipped based on what is covered by insurance.  So far, I was up to 45 minutes and counting.

After a very frustrating conversation involving at least 2 transfers, I was told the correct supplies are covered and would be shipped to us soon.  What a relief!!

Since I was having such trouble with the supplies company I had been working with, in the meanwhile I contacted a different supplies company that I liked working with previously.

Let’s call the frustrating company Supplies Company A (SCA) and the company I liked working with previously Supplies Company B (SCB).  When I looked at my e-mail later that day, I saw a response from SCB stating that our insurance does not, in fact, cover that specific model of pump supplies we were asking about.  Instead of feeling relieved that the frustrating SCA said the supplies are covered and shipping soon, I was left feeling nervous and doubtful.

I called the insurance company next.  They said they would investigate the details and call me back.  It has been over a week, and I have received zero callbacks.

One time I had a pump supplies company try to tell me that I would owe cash price for an entire 3 months’ worth of pump supplies because that supplies company wasn’t actually on contract with my insurance company even though it was on contract the prior 3 months.  Imagine the fear and stress when I was told how much money I would need to pay back!  I asked to talk with a manager.  The manager was apologetic but unable to help.  I looked up the CEO of the company and sent a message.  The CEO of the company responded back and agreed this was a process issue of the supplies company and not the financial liability of a person who trusted that supplies are covered since the supplies company said they were covered.  The CEO was able to fix that high dollar amount on my account.

It often feels like the process to follow to obtain pump and CGM supplies that are covered by insurance is more like a riddle than a straightforward process.

I typically like to face diabetes-related challenges with a strategy in mind.  What is the best strategy to maneuver through the seemingly never-ending amounts of phone calls, extraordinarily long hold times, sequential transfers, dead ends, faxes that end up in some mysterious black hole, and know what options are available that are actually covered by my current insurance plan?

While I do not have a foolproof strategy,  I do have a few tips to share!

Tavia’s Top 10 Tips: How to get Diabetes Supplies

  1. Call a supplies company you worked with in the past and ask if they take your insurance.
  2. Ask your Endo office or Diabetes Care and Education Specialist if they know who takes your insurance.
  3. Be prepared to wait on hold for long periods of time and to be transferred.
  4. Take detailed notes including dates, times, phone numbers, and the name of the representative(s) you speak with.
  5. Request information to be sent to you in writing either in an e-mail or through snail mail.
  6. Ask for a few supplies as a backup stash from your Endo office or Diabetes Care and Education Specialist office to keep on hand just in case you run into a problem with coverage or finding the correct mail-order supply company along the way.
  7. If you are at risk of running out of supplies, contact the local pump and CGM company representatives. They may have a few supplies in case of emergency, or they may be able to direct you to a phone number or website that can help.
  8. Always have your off-pump backup insulin plan on file and ready to use.
  9. Get the refill order process started at least 1 month before you will be out of pump or CGM supplies.
  10. If possible, sign up for auto-refills and sign up for text or e-mail updates so you are alerted when your supplies are shipping.
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