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Mail order diabetic supplies: be smart, and save money

Getting the supplies you need to deal with your diabetes through the mail might seem complex or burdensome, but the monetary benefits are clear. Medicare recommends going with mail-order companies, and some insurance companies won't let you do it any other way. True, there are shady operations out there, but a little research and a few moments looking over your invoices can help you avoid common pitfalls and jump right into taking advantage of these money-savings operations.

The good: benefits of ordering diabetic supplies by mail

Check out these five benefits for mail-ordering supplies:

  1. It saves time. A quick phone call or a few clicks, and you're done. It'll be winging its way to you no time.
  2. It saves gas. If you're a ways from your local outlet, you can save on gas and commute time by ordering from home.
  3. There's often more to choose from. Your local pharmacy might only have room to carry a few different items, whereas a dedicated medical supply warehouse can fit nearly everything on the market, from the latest and greatest to the tried, true, and cheap.
  4. They pass savings on to you. These larger operations can buy supplies in bulk and pass the savings on to you.
  5. They deal with insurance companies and Medicare. Smaller, local operations won't always deal with every insurance company -- or with Medicare at all -- because of billing issues. Again, the larger companies have the advantage here, and you can benefit from it.
Nearly all of the products you need are available for mail order -- from test strips and glucose meters to prescription medications and insulin.

The bad: watch for little mistakes on orders and price inflation

It's important to remember that these mail-order companies and pharmacies are businesses. They make a profit, and that money comes from either you or your insurance carrier. Watch for the following:

  1. Price gouging. Many mail-order companies charge dramatically inflated prices from the get-go, working you up to your deductible quickly, so your insurance kicks in. With the right insurance coverage, this can save you bunches of money in the long run, but if you don't pay a lot for insurance, your deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expense limit for the year might be too high to make up the difference. Be sure to check the prices you're paying, and always do the math.
  2. Incorrect Quantities. You ordered a four pack, and they sent you a six pack. Your invoice lists two packs of fifty, but you received a hundred pack. These might seem innocent enough, but little tricks like this allow companies to glean more money from you, Medicare, or your insurance company, which could come back to bite you. Check your orders against invoices and what's actually in the box, just in case.
  3. A waived deductible. This is illegal in some states and can void your insurance coverage. Be sure to check your state law. The American Diabetes Association offers guidance in these matters; don't be afraid to ask.

The ugly: deals too good to be true? Then they probably are

The benefits of ordering diabetic supplies online are very real -- but they won't be mind-blowing. Be an informed consumer, and remember:

  1. If you're ordering something that requires a prescription, they'll need you doctor's information. If they don't get your doctor's information to confirm your prescription, who knows what you might be getting -- the supplies could be stolen, damaged, or just plain fake.
  2. If they won't show you their prices, don't show them your wallet. When companies hide things from you, it's usually because they're engaged in unlawful behavior. Results could range from your insurance being voided to being ripped off -- and worse.

Your best bet is to read reviews and customer testimonials online, contact the American Diabetes Association or find a local office, or go straight through your insurance company for a recommendation.

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