Dissecting Diabetes: Costs and Chronic Disease Impact

April 8, 2014

A recent New York Times article, “Even Small Medical Advances Can Mean Big Jumps in Bills,” takes a deep dive into the myriad issues facing people with diabetes, from daily maintenance and complex costs to medical advances and resulting chronic diseases. The lifesaving and quality of life advances in diabetes care have been many but the complications of the disease continue to abound. Covering a great deal of ground, the article concludes with sobering statement from a life-long diabetes patient asserting that good treatment is what prevents disability.

Nearly 26 million Americans live with one of three types of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that if these trends continue, by 2050, one in three Americans will struggle with diabetes. Ninety-five percent of diabetes cases are type 2, which is often a result of environment and lifestyle factors. The complications and additional health risks that diabetes brings more often lead to other costly chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure. Tight glycemic control is critical to avoiding these and other serious complications including blindness and lower limb amputations. As the article notes, medical innovations have made control not only possible, but easier for the individual to manage. With medical advances, the number of lower limb amputations plummeted 65 percent between 1996 and 2008.

Costs associated with diabetes are staggering indeed, as almost $1 in $10 spent on healthcare goes toward treating people with diabetes. Absenteeism, productivity and disability losses amount to more than $45 billion annually.

Work is being done day in and day out to improve treatment options for diabetes patients. These advancements are already and will continue to help better manage diabetes, to improve quality of life, and to prevent the incidence of multiple chronic conditions, all of which will positively impact efforts to fight chronic disease and keep overall healthcare costs down.