The Financial Burden of Diabetes
Managing type 2 diabetes is expensive, requiring medications, blood sugar testing machines and supplies, visits to the doctor, and lab work. The American Diabetes Association published research in 2013 that estimated the total costs of diabetes in 2012 were $245 billion. This was a 41% increase from their previous data from 2007 when costs were estimated at $174 billion. In their cost analysis, they included direct medical costs ($176 billion) as well as the cost of reduced productivity ($69 billion). Reduced productivity is due to a combination of factors, including increased absenteeism, reduced productivity at work, inability to work as a result of disease-related disability, and lost productive capacity due to early death from diabetes.
These national numbers are staggering, so what does this mean for the individual? People with diabetes incur on average medical costs of $13,700 each year, and $7,900 of that is attributed to diabetes. This is an increase in medical expenditures of 2.3 times what someone who doesn’t have diabetes incurs.
In the recent Diabetes in America survey conducted by Health Union, the majority (74%) of survey respondents had an annual household income of less than $75K, and 32% had an income of less than $30K. The costs of diabetes place additional challenges for those with a low income. Of course, some of the costs of medical supplies and doctor visits are covered by insurance. Thirty-nine percent of survey participants noted they receive group coverage through their employer or their spouse’s employer, and Medicare covers 35% of respondents. But there are still significant out-of-pocket expenses for the individual living with type 2 diabetes.
How to Reduce Costs
Experts agree that the costs of diabetes are substantial for the individual and for society, and while preventing diabetes can reduce future costs for society, prevention strategies do not help those who already have the condition. The best way for someone living with type 2 diabetes to reduce their costs is to control their blood sugar. Keeping blood sugar in healthy ranges reduces the risks of complications, such as heart disease, kidney damage, eye damage, and a susceptibility to infections and poor healing, all of which can further increase medical costs. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar also can reduce the need for additional doctor visits and may enable the individual to test their blood sugar less frequently, which can reduce the costs of supplies. People living with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to adopt healthier habits, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and stopping smoking. While these steps are simple, behavior change is not always easy, and many find support programs to be helpful in keeping them motivated.
Where Not to Skimp
Diabetes is a serious condition and can be life-threatening if left untreated. When finances get tight, it can be tempting to cut critical items like doctor’s appointments or essential medications. However, these short-term cuts can have long-term health consequences, which may end up costing you even more in health care expenses. When considering where to make cuts in your diabetes care management, be sure to include a health care professional in your discussions. Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can provide helpful information and may know of resources that can help you.