A Little Less Needling

U.S. REP. MIKE FERGUSON, R-N.J., has introduced a bill that would provide diabetes patients with Medicare reimbursement for the costs of needle destruction devices and needle-mailback programs. The waste industry supports the Medicare Safe Needle Disposal Coverage Act of 2005, saying it would help keep needles out of the solid waste stream and minimize the health risks to workers who might otherwise come into contact with the syringes.

Bruce Parker, president and CEO of the Washington-based National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), has written a letter to Ferguson declaring the organization's endorsement of the bill. John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), says SWANA supports the legislation as well.

The Houston-based Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal, a group of government agencies, professional associations and private businesses, is pushing for the bill's passage in part to persuade private insurance carriers to provide the same reimbursements, says Alice Jacobsohn, director of public affairs and industry research for the Washington-based Environmental Industry Associations (of which NSWMA is a sub-association). Jacobsohn also is the director of EIA's Medical Waste Institute.

NSWMA, the Washington-based National Recycling Coalition and Houston-based Waste Management Inc. belong to the coalition.

Used needles can spread germs and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and syphilis if they stick people, according to the coalition.