On March 5th, 2013, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, along with a number of other bipartisan sponsors, introduced the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act.
While it yet to be passed into law, the goal of the bill is to reduce both the incidences of diabetes and cost of treatment among seniors by expanding Medicare to cover preventative programs.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to cut costs by introducing new coverage, by some conservative estimates, the bill will save about $1.3 billion over the next ten years.[i]
The well-known truth is that obesity in America has reached epidemic rates, but what often gets overlooked are other diseases that stem from obesity. In addition to heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes is also an all too common result of being overweight.
As of 2014, around 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and that number is expected to increase to 1 in 3 by the year 2050. Over half of those who have been diagnosed are over the age of 60 and the majority of seniors are either diabetic or prediabetic.[ii]
These numbers have a significant impact on both the individual who has to try and control their disease and society which is also paying the price for the poor health of our fellow citizens. Currently, the costs of diagnosed cases of diabetes amount to around $245 billion per year.[iii]
The good news is that not only is type 2 diabetes preventable, it is also reversible. By targeting seniors and providing free preventative care, the US could reduce the financial impact of treating patients and help people live longer healthier lives.
The National Diabetes Prevention Program has teamed up with YMCAs across the country to offer a yearlong program that uses life coaches to teach about healthy eating, exercise and stress reduction, which helps seniors reduce their reliance on blood pressure and cholesterol medications and prevent pre-diabetes from turning into the full-fledged disease.
While some private insurers currently over this program, Medicare has yet to offer assistance with the enrollment costs of diabetes prevention.
Any time there is talk of expanding a government program, people seem to have a knee jerk reaction, but there is a strong possibility that providing preventative care can actually save money in the long run.
Without going into too many details of the bill, it makes perfect sense that paying for one year of preventative care that will help participants completely revamp their lifestyle would be far less expensive than paying for decades of medications, treatments, and hospitals stays to treat diabetes and its complications.
While people may disagree about the appropriate solution, there is no denying that type 2 diabetes among seniors is a major problem that will only continue to worsen if definitive steps aren’t taken.
Offering affordable preventative care to our seniors appears to be a sensible step in the right direction. If you feel strongly about this issue, don’t forget to contact your state’s senators and other elected officials to express your opinion before the bill goes up for a vote.
About the author:
Amy M. Blitchok is a professional writer and researcher who specializes in issues relating to seniors, aging in place and mobility technology. She works to disseminate important information that will help everyone live a longer, healthier life and age comfortably and gracefully. Currently, she writes for Modern Senior, AmeriGlide, and contributes to several major industry related blogs and websites.
[i] “S. 452: Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act of 2013.” Govtrack.us. 5 March 2013, Web. 28 May 2014.
[ii] “National Diabetes Prevention Program.” FHI360: 2013. Web. 28 May 2014.
[iii] “New Study: Sen. Franken’s Bipartisan Diabetes Prevention Program Would Save Medicare $1.3 Billion.” Al Franken: 24 Feb 2014. Web. 28 May 2014.