Ostomy Association of South Texas
Choosing the Right Supplier
Choosing a particular ostomy product supplier is a matter of individual preference. When shopping for ostomy supplies, as for any consumer product, you can shop for service as well as for price.
Remember that you have rights as a consumer and that you can change your supplier at any time, insurance permitting. The following issues are important to consider when evaluating an ostomy products supplier:
- Range of brands carried - Do they carry only the most popular items, and do they special-order items and new products?
- Price - It sometimes pays to "comparison-shop." Mail-order companies often discount from the list price, but charge shipping and handling costs. Some may not carry products from every manufacturer. Smaller local pharmacies may not be able to discount, may carry less inventory but may provide other services
- Ease of Use and Accessibility - Is it easier for you to walk or drive to the local pharmacy or pick up the phone and place a catalog order? Will the local surgical supplier or drugstore deliver? If you prefer to purchase only a few items at a time, think about the shipping and handling costs charged per order by mail-order companies. Also, find out how quickly you can obtain a product on an emergency basis.
- Special Services - Ask if there are ET nurses for consultation and advice and if they can do special orders. Some suppliers are a wealth of information on ostomy products and their use. Remember, it never hurts to ask!
- Insurance Reimbursement - Do they handle direct billing to your insurer? Will they give you appropriate receipts to receive reimbursement if you file the claims yourself? Are they approved by your HMO to purchase supplies from and still receive reimbursement? Do they accept Medicare assignment or charge you the additional difference between the Medicare payment and the list price? (See the Insurance Issues page for more complete information on insurance reimbursement issues.)
- Unused Supplies - If your stoma size changes, or you switch to a different brand, find out if you can return your unused products for credit or a refund. Most suppliers will allow this but policies do vary. You could also donate surplus ostomy products through Friends of Ostomates Worldwide to its SHARE program, which sends these supplies to needy ostomates overseas.
- Complaints - Ask how they handle returns or replacements of defective products. Some suppliers may accept them, others may tell you to call the manufacturer directly.
- Accessories - Do they carry pouch covers, belts, waterproof tape, odor treatments, and special underwear? These products are sometimes available from local suppliers, but can also be found in mail-order catalogs or ordered directly from the ads in the Phoenix Quarterly magazine or Advertisers Page on this site.