Big Changes! Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Loosen Requirements for Obtaining a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) During COVID-19
By Karena Yan and Kelly Close
In-person visits, lab tests, and finger stick documentation are no longer required at present to get a CGM
Editor's note: This article was updated on May 21, 2020 to reflect that lab testing is still required for an insulin pump and pump supplies.
High blood sugar levels leave the body vulnerable to infections, meaning those individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. To properly monitor and respond to glucose levels and to strengthen the immune system to fight off infections, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can be very helpful.
If you are on Medicare, obtaining a CGM through your healthcare professional is a relatively involved process, requiring an in-person clinic visit, lab tests, documentation of frequent finger sticks (four or more times a day), and a lot of paperwork. At present, only those on insulin have an opportunity for approval. However, due to COVID-19 and the increased risks it poses for people with diabetes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will not enforce the following criteria for receiving a CGM:
- In-person clinic visits
- “Clinical criteria,” including lab tests for C-peptide or auto-antibodies, or demonstration of frequent finger sticks
This means that people with diabetes do not have to go to the doctor’s office or undergo lab tests to receive a CGM. Importantly, these loosened restrictions also reduce the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy for healthcare providers and give them greater flexibility in providing CGMs. Lab testing is still required for insulin pumps and pump supplies.
This increased access to CGMs is a huge win for the many people with diabetes on insulin who would not otherwise be able to get a CGM. Because CGMs provide real-time data for blood sugar levels, users are able to monitor their glucose and proactively adjust their insulin doses. Not only do CGMs help increase time in range, and thus have the opportunity to increase productivity and quality of life, but they can also improve overall diabetes management and can help keep patients out of the hospital.
We hope that in the future, at least those on SFUs will be able to get CGM, as SFUs can prompt hypoglycemia, which is especially dangerous right now, given the importance of staying out of the hospital.
Every person with diabetes can benefit from either a professional CGM used regularly (at least yearly) or a 24/7 CGM. While these new CMS guidelines are temporary in response to COVID-19, we are hoping and advocating for making the changes permanent. With the rise of the Beyond A1C movement and increased awareness of time in range, CGM (24/7 or professional) is an essential tool for people with diabetes to live happy and healthy lives, both during and after COVID-19.
This article is part of a series on time in range.
The diaTribe Foundation, in concert with the Time in Range Coalition, is committed to helping people with diabetes and their caregivers understand time in range to maximize patients' health. Learn more about the Time in Range Coalition here.