Blog | Wednesday, November 24, 2010

QD: News Every Day--Prevent diabetes to bend the health care cost curve

By 2020, an estimated 15% of adults will have diabetes and 37% will have prediabetes, a total of 39 million people, compared with rates of 12% and 28% today, respectively.

Today, more than 90% of people with prediabetes, and about a quarter of people with diabetes, are unaware of it, according to a report from UnitedHealth Group, the provider of insurance and other health care services.

The health savings alone of preventing diabetes would bend the cost curve of health care spending in the country. Health spending associated with diabetes and prediabetes is about $194 billion this year, or 7% of U.S. health spending, the report said. That cost is projected to rise to $500 billion by 2020, or a total of almost $3.4 trillion on diabetes-related care.

Engaging the at-risk population could save up to $250 billion, or 7.5% of estimated spending on diabetes and prediabetes, in the next decade. Of that money, $144 billion, or about 58%, would come from savings in Medicare, Medicaid and health care exchange subsidies.

For UnitedHealth's population of insured lives, a sample of 10 million commercial health plan members, the average 2009 cost of a known diabetic was approximately $11,700, compared to $4,400 for the remainder of the population. Diabetes with complications costs an average of $20,700 annually, or three times as much as $7,800 for diabetics who do not have complications.

The report recommends. among other solutions, diabetes awareness and public education, more pay for and better models of primary care (such as the medical home), patient incentives (including money), and for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force should to evidence for prediabetes screening.

[Editor's Note--QD: News Every Day will resume on Nov. 29.]