Why Now?
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
  Why Medicare Costs So Much
I had to get a nebulizer for my Mother to use after she got out of the hospital. She has Medicare and Tricare for Life, so she has plenty of coverage and I went to a pharmacy.

The very efficient and helpful people at the local Walgreens pharmacy told me they could sell me the medication with a co-payment through Tricare, but I needed to go to a medical equipment store to buy the nebulizer because it was a device.

I went to the medical equipment store and found out that Medicare covered the equipment and would provide the medication through the mail at no charge to my Mother. So I went through with it and my Mother received the help she needed at a minimal cost.

Here's the problem: Medicare is leasing the nebulizer. I checked the 'Net and you can buy a nebulizer for under $70, but Medicare is paying $46 a month to lease this piece of equipment.

If they decide that my Mother only needs to use this device for a month, then the system is fine, but if she needs it from now on, Medicare is paying for a new machine every two months, while the patient continues to use the same piece of equipment.

A nebulizer is essentially a cheap paint sprayer. There is a small pump that is identical to an aquarium pump with a filter on the air intake, a plastic mask, and a mixing chamber. The air supplied by the pump causes the medication to be blown into the mask as a mist.

If this is going to be long term, I'm going to buy one on the 'Net. I can't see ripping off Medicare for $46 per month.

They were going to do the same thing with my Mother's walker, but she went and bought the one she wanted and didn't worry about being reimbursed.

I can't blame the equipment companies, but someone at Medicare needs to look long and hard at the way they do things. If I can buy a single unit for $70, surely they can get them at a much lower cost.


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