Special Diabetes Program
Native American Legislative Update - September 2012
Continue the Good Work of the Special Diabetes Program
Rep. Diane DeGette (CO) has introduced a bill (H.R. 6309) to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program. The two programs under this title, the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, will expire in September 2013.
The Special Diabetes Programs have been in operation since 1997 – long enough to generate documented results. Preliminary results already show significant strides in controlling the effects of diabetes and even reversing the disease. The Department of Health and Human Services will soon release a comprehensive report that includes the most recent data available.
In American Indian and Alaska Native communities, which are burdened with diabetes at 2.8 times the national average, funding for diabetes prevention and treatment has led to significant documented decreases in blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol levels, and the need for dialysis.
The great strides made in the decrease of End Stage Renal Disease, one serious outcome of diabetes, show the dramatic effects that a focus on prevention can have. Between 1995 and 2006, the incidence of ESRD among American Indians and Alaska Natives with diabetes dropped by 27.7 percent. The savings from this reduction is considerable: each Medicare patient who does not have to be treated with hemodialysis for ESRD saves the government nearly $90,000 a year. Getting this serious disease under control saves a lot more than health care costs – it saves lives and restores a healthy quality life to those afflicted.
A Sound Investment in Sound Health
According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, in 2007 it cost $116 billion to treat about 26 million diabetic patients across the country. This reauthorization legislation calls for annual funding of $200 million for each of the two programs for FY 2014 through FY 2018. These comprehensive programs together would invest $400 million a year in research, intervention and prevention – a fraction of what it would cost to treat diabetes.
Another comparison: if the Special Diabetes Programs can remove the need for dialysis for about 4,700 patients a year (out of the 5 to 10 million diabetics in the U.S. who are currently likely to develop a need for dialysis), the programs will pay for themselves. When the added costs of treating heart disease, renal dysfunctions, and eye and foot complications are factored in, the health care savings realized by investments in these preventive programs will be truly phenomenal.
The Dollars Saved Aren't the Only Story
Diabetes is a serious, disabling and potentially fatal disease. Investing relatively small amounts to help people with diabetes manage their disease and control its effects can enable them to take back their lives, to be more active with their families and their communities, and to live long enough to be the elders we need them to be.
Contact your representative and senators to urge them to support the reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program. Opportunities for reauthorization may yet arise this fall as other legislation moves through the rather complicated process that will occupy Congress after the election. Be sure your members of Congress have funding for diabetes research and prevention in mind.