U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced legislation last week to make Medicare’s Diabetes Prevention Program more accessible to more Americans.
The bipartisan legislation, which DeGette introduced along with Reps. Tom Rice (R-SC), Tom Reed (R-NY) and G.K. Butterfield (D-CA), would require that Medicare make the program available online, instead of requiring qualifying beneficiaries to attend in-person classes.
“Nearly one-third of all adults in this country have either diabetes or prediabetes,” said DeGette, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. “Finding ways to prevent more Americans from developing this deadly disease must remain one of our top priorities. This legislation will help us expand access to important resources and make them more available to more Americans – including our seniors, and those living in more rural areas, who may otherwise be unable to utilize them.”
The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program is a 2-year program designed to teach Medicare beneficiaries with prediabetes how to live healthier lifestyles and reduce their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes later on down the road.
“Nearly one-third of all adults in this country have either diabetes or prediabetes. Finding ways to prevent more Americans from developing this deadly disease must remain one of our top priorities. This legislation will help us expand access to important resources and make them more available to more Americans – including our seniors, and those living in more rural areas, who may otherwise be unable to utilize them.”
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette
The program, which is available to qualifying Medicare beneficiaries at no cost to them, requires participants to attend 16 in-person, classroom-style sessions where they are taught how to improve their diets, increase their physical exercise and make better overall health decisions to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services temporarily suspended the in-person requirement earlier this year in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is currently making the diabetes prevention classes available to participants online.
The legislation DeGette and others introduced on Dec. 3, would make that change permanent and explicitly require Medicare to make the diabetes prevention program available to qualifying beneficiaries both online and in-person going forward – a move that proponents of the bill say will help to drastically expand the programs reach, even after the pandemic ends.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 10 American adults currently have diabetes – including more than 400,000 people in DeGette’s home state of Colorado.
That number is even higher among Americans age 65 and over – in fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 4 seniors in the U.S. currently has the disease.
Approximately $1 out of every $4 spent on health care in the U.S. – and $1 out of every $3 spent by Medicare – is spent treating people with diabetes.
In response to the surging cost associated with treating a growing number of Americans with diabetes each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program in 2018 in an effort to try to help lower the cost of treating beneficiaries with the disease by helping them prevent it from developing in the first place.
Studies have shown that participants of similar behavioral-change programs have been successful in preventing or delaying the development of Type 2 diabetes for at least 15 years.
An early review of the Medicare-run program found that it, like other similarly designed programs, has been successful in helping participants lose weight and reduce their overall chances of developing the disease.
Participants of the Medicare program have reported an average weight loss of 5%. Medicare, meanwhile, has reportedly saved an average of $2,650 in reduced medical costs per beneficiary who has participated in the program.
The legislation – known as the PREVENT DIABETES Act – is supported by the American Diabetes Association, American Medical Association, Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists, The Connected Health Initiative, Endocrine Society, Healthcare Leadership Council, Livongo, Noom, National Kidney Foundation, Novo Nordisk Inc., Omada Health, and YMCA of the USA.
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