I don’t usually review Diabetes devices but having just been thru a pump switch, I thought I’d share my experience switching from an Animas to a Tandem Insulin Pump. Read on to see why I strongly question their “#1 Rated Customer Support” claim on the Tandem Diabetes website (highlighted in the cover image of this post).
Overall I’d give the customer service a 1/10 mainly due to the lack thereof service from the manufacturer and the cumbersome order process.
|Medical Device, Type 1 Diabetes
As an Animas Ping Pump user since 2015 (Omnipod and Medtronic user prior to that), when Animas announced they were exiting the Insulin pump market and transitioned their business to Medtronic Diabetes, I knew I didn’t want the Medtronic pump (mostly because I didn’t want to use their sensor). Between Omnipod and Tandem, (and having had severe contact dermatitis and other software problems in the past), Tandem seemed to be the clear winner. Also, I had previously used their t:slim X2 in a Clinical study and had liked the sleekness of it plus their new-ish Basal-IQ algorithm running off of Dexcom G6 data (suspends insulin delivery during predicted BG lows) seemed like the obvious choice.
I waited out until mid-May 2019 to get in touch with Tandem to start the process for obtaining a new pump. I thought ~4 months before the pump becomes unusable due to lack of supplies should be a good amount of time to start the insurance process without penalty and since my FSA benefits were going to kick in on June 1, mid-May seemed like a good time to get the conversation started. I met with my CDE to see if she could hook me up with a Tandem rep to get the process going along smoothly. Much to my dismay, she asked me to fill out the same online form as any new customer but did give me the Tandem Sales rep contact info – the previous CDE I worked with for my Animas pump hooked me up with the sales rep directly who helped me thru the process.
I came back home and sent the Tandem rep, let’s call her “T”, an email explaining my situation and asked her if I should wait until June to fill out the form. I got a reply the next day saying the process would take a couple weeks so the billing wouldn’t happen until the very end and asked me to fill out the online form. She also asked for a copy of my insurance card. After I gave her the info she asked for, she said she’d have her insurance team on it and asked if I was on a pump currently and if I was, then she wanted the Out of Warranty (OOW) Date. I explained again that I was on the Animas Ping which was going to be supported only until August 2019 (I initially mis-read the memo which says supplies are available until September 30, 2019). And also the fact that I’d purchased my Animas pump in 2015 with a different insurance. She wanted the exact purchase date to process my insurance. She also wanted my endocrinologist info to get some paperwork sorted out. 3 days later, I got a phone call from let’s call her “C”, at Tandem asking for the OOW Date (which I had to call Animas aka Medtronic to get). She said I had two options to switch to the Tandem pump:
- Wait out until my warranty ended (which is October 15, 2019)
- Go thru the Tandem Upgrade program and pay $950 (I think) to switch
So I reminded her that Medtronic would stop supporting Animas pumps before my warranty ended which should technically make me eligible for a new pump thru my insurance with a “Letter of Medical Necessity” from my doctor if needed. She was kinda rude and said if I wished to pursue the “medical necessity” route, I had to work with my doctor (by myself). So I sent an email to “T” explaining the conversation I had with “C” and also mentioned that I’d owned several pumps and CGMs in the past, the medical device companies worked it out with the doctor themselves and asked if Tandem was hands-off and wanted the patients to do the leg work. She replied right away saying she was going to talk to her insurance team to have it processed without having to go thru the HCP/medical necessity route and get back. Later that afternoon, she confirmed that everything on my file was A-OK and there was no need for extra work. They just needed some paperwork signed off by my endo and were going to process my case as normal. She also mentioned that the insurance team would get in touch to go over coverage and next steps.
After 2 full weeks of radio silence, I wrote back to “T” to check on the progress. She replied saying everything was moving along smoothly and they received paperwork back from my endo and the next step was for Tandem‘s insurance team to verify benefits. She also said that once the pump ships, her colleague, a CDE, would reach out to schedule pump training. This sounded like progress right? I thought I was going to hear from the insurance team in a day or two and have my pump at the end of the week. Sadly, when I didn’t hear from the insurance team after 10 days, and running low on Animas supplies, I wrote back to “T” asking for an update. This time, I never heard from her even after 1 week. So I called Tandem and spoke to a guy (forgot his name) and told him about being ghosted and wanted to see what was going on. After that, someone from the insurance/billing team to called me back the following day and processed my order. It took 37 days from my original email to “T” to get to this point, Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here.
BILLING & SHIPPING
The insurance/billing rep who processed my claim told me I’d met my deductible for the year and insurance would cover x%. I paid for my order and hung up. I called back in 5 minutes since I’d forgotten to ask for an invoice. This time, she said she quoted incorrectly before and my insurance would only cover 50% so I owed them more $$. I paid for it a second time and asked her to send me the invoice for both payments which she did via email. When the rep asked if I wanted to sign up for auto-reorder I told the rep I would order my supplies online to which she mentioned they did not have an e-commerce option and patients either had to op-tin for auto-reorder or call every 4 months to re-order. While its another thing for me to keep track of, I politely declined the auto-reorder and chose to call instead – we’re really paranoid about identity theft and money scammers and not big on auto-pay (for anything) and like to pay for things after we know what and how much we’re paying.
Things to know before you order:
- If you are currently on a different insulin pump and want to switch to Tandem, the process could take anywhere from 40-60 days. So in addition to planning ahead, you also need to be on top of things as their customer service sucks.
- Be sure to double check your billing charges.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and keep asking until you get answers.
- Tandem does not have an online store so refill supplies have to be ordered by calling in or opting for auto-reorder.
- Lastly, switching insurance or pump manufacturer closing shop does not make you eligible for a new brand of pump if you are currently on a pump. You have to wait until the warranty on the pump expires from the insurance standpoint. For example, I purchased my previous Animas pump with Blue Cross in October 2015. Animas warranty on the pump is until October 2019. However, my new insurance Aetna covers pumps for 3 years and hence I was eligible to switch without needing a medical necessity letter or paying $$$ in upgrade fee.
To make sure my shipment didn’t get stolen from my doorstep, I asked the rep to require Signature on delivery. She said they missed the shipping window for the day (Friday) and she would have it shipped out first thing Monday. I got an email from Tandem Cares with the UPS tracking info. Tuesday came and the tracking link still showed “label created”. I was on my last Animas reservoir/cartridge and beginning to worry. Since I was not home that day, I called Tandem and left a message asking when the order would ship out. When I came home later that night, I saw the Tandem box at my front door – so they shipped the order with a different tracking number (which was never sent to me) and didn’t require signature on delivery! At least I was glad my package wasn’t stolen! A month later, I was looking at my insurance claim and found out that Tandem had over-billed me – the second amount that they made me pay was unnecessary. So after another call, I learned that they refunded the 2nd payment to my credit card – without so much of an email/phone call, way to go Tandem!
Check out my next post on the Design and Usability of the Tandem t:slim X2 with Basal IQ pump.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the authors and are here to help people make an informed choice before a purchase. The authors or the blog itself does not get any compensation from the product manufacturer or third-party websites/vendor links that are posted here.