DALLAS — Thomas Pohl ran out of the test strips he needs to check his blood sugar weeks ago.
When the 67-year-old diabetic tried to get more, Pohl learned he'd have to pay for a three-month supply. Medicare has long provided these critical diabetes supplies for free.
"I was just not able to make the co-pay when I went in there to get them, so I went out and walked out without them," Pohl said. "As a result, I have not checked my blood sugar since about the 13th of June."
What's more, Pohl learned he could only get enough strips to test his blood sugar once a day, instead of twice, despite his doctor's prescription.
The new limits and charges for diabetics who don't take insulin are part of supply cuts designed to save millions of Medicare dollars.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 25 million diagnosed diabetics, which means there's a lot of money to be spent — and saved — on diabetic supplies.
According to the new regulations:
"Medicare Part B covers the same type of blood sugar testing supplies for people with diabetes whether or not they use insulin. However, the amount of supplies that are covered varies. If you use insulin, you may be able to get up to 100 test strips and lancets every month, and one lancet device every 6 months. If you don't use insulin, you may be able to get 100 test strips and lancets every three months, and one lancet device every six months. If your doctor says it is medically necessary, Medicare will allow additional test strips and lancets.
"Medically necessary" means that services or supplies are needed for the diagnosis or treatment of your medical condition and meet accepted standards of medical practice.
These new federal changes affect every pharmacy and Medicare diabetic in the country. At Parkland Memorial Hospital, many patients have voiced concern and confusion about the new rules.