The Diabetes Epidemic
By any definition—whether it’s the centuries-old meaning of a widespread outbreak of disease or a modern connotation with socioeconomic and medical implications—diabetes has reached epidemic status in the United States. Nearly 21 million Americans have the disease, and if current trends continue, 1 in every 3 children born in this century will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
Positive developments and ways health plans can offer support
Although the statistics are troubling, there are many positive developments to build on. Important advances continue to be made in the prevention, detection, and treatment of diabetes. Organizations like the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists have long been at the forefront of efforts to improve diabetes education.
More recently, government-sponsored initiatives like Diabetes: A National Plan for Action and industry-sponsored programs like Journey for Control are providing integrated, action-oriented approaches to raise awareness of resources and recommendations that can help patients better manage their condition and prevent or delay health complications.
Encouraging members to take the necessary steps to prevent or treat the condition has the potential to reduce the health care costs associated with diabetes and its complications. Beyond that, supporting healthier lifestyles can also help members live more productive lives—the ultimate win-win scenario and a solid approach to offsetting the effects of the diabetes epidemic.
The effect of diabetes on the managed care system
Health plans’ decision makers are exploring ways to counter the effects of type 2 diabetes on the managed care system. A look at the aggregate costs associated with diabetes underscores the magnitude of the challenge.
The annual cost of diabetes in the United States in 2007 was estimated at $174 billion. Direct medical expenditures alone were $116 billion:
|Diabetes care||$27 billion|
|Chronic diabetes-related complications||$58 billion|
|Excess general medical costs||$31 billion|
Indirect costs, such as lost work days, restricted-activity days, or permanent disability due to diabetes—nearly match the $58 billion spent on diabetes-related complications.
Roughly 1 in 5 health care dollars in the United States is spent caring for someone with diagnosed diabetes, and approximately $1 of every $10 spent on health care is attributable to diabetes.
People with diabetes who are admitted to the hospital for any condition have longer average stays, even after subtracting hospitalizations that can be attributed to the chronic complications of diabetes and controlling for other factors that can affect length of stay.