rtlemurs: (Scruffy Smile)
[personal profile] rtlemurs
Here is an amusing story that could help explain at least part of the astronomical rise in health care costs over the last decade or so.

My father is diabetic and has an insulin pump. His BG meter is a little more "high tech" than the average BG meter in that it communicates and synchronizes with the pump and you can upload/download information to/from it to better manage your diabetes. This last feature is not unique to meters used with pumps but is added technology.

To allow for this uploading/downloading there is a USB micro port on the side of the meter. Next to that is a card port. Both of these are recessed and the opening is protected by a small flexible rubber cover. This cover has fallen off many times and has finally become lost.

I was concerned that since my father is the model for "Peanuts" Pigpen, that these ports would get dirty and damaged and create problems in general. So, my father called the company and inquired about purchasing a replacement (in fact purchasing a couple replacements for expected future disappearances). They too were concerned to about the ports getting damaged but informed my father that they do not have replacement covers.

He was told that they make the meters "custom" for the pumps and that replacement parts are not available. They will have to replace the entire meter, but not to worry, it won't cost him a thing! I guess on the surface that sounds like great customer service but if you think about it, it is wrong on so many levels.

First, do they really believe everyone is that stupid or are the people on the phone really stupid enough to believe that? Isn't it required by law that a manufacturer must maintain a stock of replacement parts for x-amount of years even after they cease production or is that just for automobiles? Or just in the USA and not enforced on products made outside the USA?

Next, the software and maybe some of the hardware is "custom" based on the requirements of the pump manufacturer that the meter is being paired with. But the basic external body design is the same, including the gap in the side of the body for said ports. So, the rubber cover, which has no internal nubs that fit into or around the ports should be the same on all of them regardless of pump pairing. And, even if it were specific to a pairing it would not be unique to one pump/meter combo but a line of product.

I've confirmed this by looking at an identical make/model meter at a local drug store. These meters can be used without a pump. And as many non-pump users still track their BG's through software on their computer they need the USB mini connector as well. The card port is for firmware upgrades and is, so I am told, on all meters made by this company for just that purpose.

Now even if they are custom made wouldn't you think it would be better all the way around to make a few extra rubber covers and send them along with the meter for just this purpose? It seems obvious to me that this part has a high probability of getting lost or damaged and would need replacement over the life of the meter. Maybe I'm wrong, and in this crazy world that's a possibility, but I would think a little rubber cover would be cheaper than an entire meter and software wouldn't you?

So they are going to send him a brand new meter and once he has the new one set up he is to send the old one back. Okay, why? If they're custom enough that they don't have a rubber cover then it can't be "parted" out or reused right? Or am I missing something here?

If it is reusable or they are able to "part it out" then wouldn't they have other returns that had a cover they could reuse?

It just seem to me that it boils down to it is easier and more profitable to bill insurance for a new one, even though it is perfectly functional and only needs an inexpensive part to keep it that way. Not only do they get paid for the new meter but if they refurbish the old one they get paid multiple times for the same meter.

Now, I could be completely wrong here and would love to hear from someone who has inside information on this, or even another theory as to why this is untrue or an acceptable practice?

The sad part is that I'm sure this is not the only area in which this happens and the price is not only monetary but social and environmental as well.

Date: 2010-07-16 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pwcorgigirl.livejournal.com
I don't know about any law requiring a stock of replacement parts to be maintained, but the idea of unit replacement has been around a while. You can't buy just a little widget to fix something on your car -- it has to be a whole "unit," which runs into money.

The whole disposable culture thing makes me nuts. Some years ago I found the perfect drink bottles to put in Kiddo's lunchbox. They never leaked, were easy to open, easy to clean, but the cap was part of a one-unit molded piece that attached it to the bottle. It fit on by just popping it over the top. After about a year of use, the strap that connected the cap to the bottle tended to break. I wrote to Rubbermaid and asked for replacement caps. The reply was that the product was disposable and I should throw away a perfectly good bottle!

This is going to sound a bit nuts, but have you looked on eBay for replacement covers? People will sell the strangest things, and you could always sanitize them if you found them there.

Date: 2010-07-16 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rtlemurs.livejournal.com
Back in the late 70's early 80's when I did work on my own car the gentleman at the NAPA store we (my father and I) always went to told me that auto manufacturers were required by law to keep parts available for discontinued models for a certain number of years (IIRC 3). I only remember it because the discussion hinged around patents and the legality of other companies making parts that should be protected under patent laws for the automakers.

I did a quick check and it does seem that this falls under the trade laws and has changed with as the disposable attitude has grown. A paraphrase of the law states the they have to make replacement parts available for a "reasonable" amount of time. And not just automakers. So that "reasonable" timeframe interpretation can allow for changes in what the courts deems reasonable.

Yes, "The Disposable America" drives me nuts as well (in csae you couldn't tell! LOL!). It's not just the idea that you are tossing out a perfectly good item but that anymore that item has been built with materials that are specifically designed to last for a very long time in the decomposition arena. If you are going to design a "throw-away" product, make it from a material that breaks down in a landfill in a very short amount of time or is easily recycleable.

I did not even think about eBay. I'll file that away for next time as the new meter is on the way. Although my father and I thought we'd just take the cover off the new one and send the new meter, sans cover, back with a note about the riduculousness of the situation. Unfortunately they probably won't read the note and a brand new perfectly good meter will get trashed.

The other thought is to keep both and just pay the bill if they ever send one. Keep the new one for when the old one actually breaks.


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