October 7, 2013

Support Groups Have Second Joint Meeting

On September 28, we had our second group meeting with all four groups in attendance. Tim announced we had a request for attendance from a fifth group and he asked if there was any objection to them joining. There was none, and Tim brought them in and introduced everyone. The group had 14 members present of 17 members total. In addition, they had their sponsor with them. He apologized for not having made contact earlier as several in the group had wanted to come shortly after our last meeting.

Both doctors summarized what they had been informed by the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) and then stated that they felt that with the members present from the four groups that they were right to oppose what the SGIM stated and they will continue to fight for test strips for their members. This drew a round of applause from everyone.

The sponsor from the fifth group asked who the blogger was and I raised my hand. He asked if I had any more emails and I said only one from the doctor and now two from other patients. I continued that the two from other patients was encouraging because their doctors have indicated they will work for their patients that want to test and one of their insurance companies will be continuing their current policy of reimbursing for one test strip per day. The sponsor for the fifth group said this was the response he had received from two companies in our state. Things seemed more on an even keel than we had anticipated. The doctors did ask which companies and after finding out, this made everyone a little more at ease, as this was the two companies representing the majority of those present.

After this discussion, the two doctors asked for a show on hands for those on insulin and with everyone present, the numbers were larger than expected. Tim then asked for a show of hands for those not on any medications. The number was nine and this surprised everyone. The sponsor of the first group stated that five of his group were not on any medications and Tim stated that four of our group were medication free. This meant that those on insulin were only a couple less that those on oral medications.

Allen said the numbers are three short of those present. One of the fifth group said she was on Byetta and another said she had just come off Victoza and gone on insulin. Allen said that makes the numbers come out as he was including the person that did not have diabetes. Elaine's husband raised his hand stating guilty as charged.

Tim then stated that we always welcome spouses of those with diabetes that are supportive of their spouse with diabetes. Otherwise, yes, we would prefer that they not come. Tim then asked Allen to discuss the VA and asked if any of the new group were being served by the VA. Three said they were veterans and Allen asked them to move to a corner while he, Ben, and Barry talked to them.

The sponsor asked why they were singled out. I spoke up and said we are finding people that are veterans and are not aware of the VA benefits available to them. All diabetes testing supplies are provided at no charge and medications have as copay, but only to the level that is means tested or based on income less qualifying expenses. With that two others joined the group Allen was talking with. Our local doctor said that this is important for any person that has been a veteran, and not just those with diabetes. This caused two other hands to be raised. One asked if this meant that a spouse who was a veteran could receive medications at a reduced cost.

At this, Tim asked Allen to address the entire group even if many had heard this before. Allen said yes, and came to the front and carefully stated that anyone who had been honorably discharged could qualify. They would need copies of all DD forms 214 (discharge papers) and then they would apply for VA benefits. Income would include husband's and wife's income less qualifying expenses. He asked which counties were represented and three counties were. He told them that they should go to the county seat courthouse and seek out the VA office. There they would be asked questions and if they qualified, given a form to complete and submit to the VA. Once submitted, then the wait would start for a determination letter stating the VA status level and amount of copay for most medications and certain other equipment.

Allen concluded that the VA officers at the county courthouses were certified for both the state and federal level and could be of assistance to answer questions and give assistance where needed in completing the application and support at other times. The one question was about a husband that would not consider joining the VFW or other veterans organizations so how could they get the benefits. Allen quietly stated that these organizations are completely separate and unrelated when talking benefits. There is no organization to join for VA benefits. Allen asked if there were any other questions. None was asked and Allen gave the wife his phone number so that the husband could call if he had questions.

Tim said that we did not cover everything we had planned, but felt that some confusion had been eliminated and important information clarified which had been in doubt. Both doctors thanked everyone for attending and they wanted to talk to the sponsor of the fifth group.

Several more wanted to talk with Allen, Ben, and Barry about the VA. Several of the new group wanted to ask me questions. I called Tim over to see what the plans were for the future of including this group. Tim was not sure, but asked me to gather email addresses and he would make sure to get the email for their sponsor. One of the group spoke up and said he had many of them and if Tim gave him his email address, he would email the list he had including their sponsor. I asked everyone else to write theirs on the pad I laid on the table. Only one put the email address there.

Two of the new group asked me where I had obtained the information for one blog. Since one already had the blog up, I had her scroll down to a link and click on the link. When this came up, she said now I understand why the different colors. She read the link while I talked to a couple of others and when she completed reading the other link, she asked to interrupt and thanked me for my patience and now she understood what she had been missing. I asked her to go to the profile page, which she did and those watching said that was good to know and when they saw the email, one asked her to click on it. They asked then if they could contact me with questions, I said that is why it is there.

Then their sponsor asked to speak to Tim and myself and introduced himself as the doctor for several, but not all of the group. He continued that he had much to learn about diabetes, but the other two doctors had given him much to think about, and he asked if he could also contact the two of us. Tim asked him to enter his email and Tim sent the email addresses for the two of us and the two doctors after they approved giving out the office emails to this doctor.

We talked a little longer and he asked about my blog, I said that when Tim emails me his address, I will send him a message that has my blogs listed in the signature block. He said you have more than one blog. Tim said yes, and one is not always positive about doctors, but he is using doctor blogs as the basis for them. He said he did not think his people had but one of my blog sites. I said this is possible as most were not aware of the profile page until I showed them. We talked a little longer and the meeting ended.

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