LifeAfterDx--Diabetes Uncensored

A internet journal from one of the first T1 Diabetics to use continuous glucose monitoring. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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Location: New Mexico, United States

Hi! I’m William “Lee” Dubois (called either Wil or Lee, depending what part of the internet you’re on). I’m a diabetes columnist and the author of four books about diabetes that have collectively won 16 national and international book awards. (Hey, if you can’t brag about yourself on your own blog, where can you??) I have the great good fortune to pen the edgy Dear Abby-style advice column every Saturday at Diabetes Mine; write the Diabetes Simplified column for dLife; and am one of the ShareCare diabetes experts. My work also appears in Diabetic Living and Diabetes Self-Management magazines. In addition to writing, I’ve spent the last half-dozen years running the diabetes education program for a rural non-profit clinic in the mountains of New Mexico. Don’t worry, I’ll get some rest after the cure. LifeAfterDx is my personal home base, where I get to say what and how I feel about diabetes and… you know… life, free from the red pens of editors (all of whom I adore, of course!).

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Hostage of Ignorance

It was an odd call, to say the least. On the other end of the line was a nurse who works for my patient’s health insurance company. They were trying to decide whether or not to deny my patient’s insulin pump supplies.

Now this Patient has been on a pump for about seven years. She’s actually a type 2, but she might as well be one of us. Pre-pump she took multiple daily injections of two kinds of insulin. She’s brittle as hell. She struggles with her control. There’s a lot of variation in her BGLs, but her A1Cs generally run in the low sevens, not a bad outcome for her efforts.

Apparently the insurance company had been looking at a recent visit note. On that day, my patient had suffered a pod failure, and just like one of us, in a matter of a few hours her BGL had rocketed up, up, up to 463mg/dL. She had changed the pod, took a correction, and was waiting for the resumed flow of insulin to take effect. As a T2, her risk of DKA from a hyperglycemia this brief was nil, so her main health issue was that she was PISSED off. Madder than a wet hen, in fact.

But I guess the insurance nurse didn’t look at the most recent pump downloads that show my lady tests 6-8 times per day, that her numbers generally run between 80-250 with a good solid average of 130,  OR that less than 5% of her readings are above 250 mg/dL. Instead, the nurse at the insurance company was totally focused on this one high BLG reading, and told me they were wondering why they were paying so much money for insulin pump supplies if this was all the better the results were.

I was stunned for a moment. Everyone has a screaming high number now and again. That’s the cost of doing business with diabetes. Taking someone’s pump away isn’t likely to improve that. Probably, the opposite is true. So I pulled up the note, glanced over it, and explained to the insurance nurse that my patient had suffered a pod failure a few hours before, that’s all.

To which the nurse asked me: “What’s a pod?”

Oh. But it gets worse. It turns out this nurse knew pretty much nothing about insulin pumps of any kind. Actually, she didn’t seem to know very much about diabetes, either.

Well, at least she called to ask, rather than just getting out her red stamp pad. And, luckily, it all ended well. The nurse was polite and courteous to me, and I was able to lobby for the value of the supplies and she cleared them for shipment.

But in the course of the conversation she happened to mention she’d soon be attending her 50th reunion at her nursing school later in the month.

Let’s see…. 50 + probable student age of 20 is 70.

So a 70-plus-year-old nurse who knows nothing about pumps and diabetes is holding my patient’s supplies hostage? Not that there’s anything wrong with advanced age. Experience counts. And I plan to work well into my 90s, as I don’t have a dime saved for my retirement, but why was someone with no knowledge of pumps in a position to be making these kinds of decisions?


Blogger Scott E said...

That, I can't answer. But I do feel like earlier generations are taught to approach situations with more of a "do what's right" attitude, rather than a "do what's easiest" spirit. So I think you and your patient should be extremely thankful for getting this woman to review this case rather than someone who is anxious to red-stamp everything.

6:55 PM  
Blogger DB said...

Everyday I continue to be shocked by the idiocy I encounter in dealing with vendors and retail. With SO MANY people looking for a job are these companies oblivious to the incompetence of the employees, too lazy to upgrade or paying so little they get what they pay for ?

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhere along the line the workforce (thanks to management) has shifted from "doing the right thing" and using a bit of common sense to toeing the rule book created by overbearing micromanagement that has lost sight of what the job is about.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Oh my word. This post gives me chills. Thank you for being her advocate. So very scary!

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Colleen said...


Thank goodness she spoke with you and you had the notes to know what happened.

4:52 PM  

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