Diabetes sends healthcare costs soaring

The rising prevalence of diabetes in the United States is one of the major factors increasing the costs of healthcare services. Altogether, diagnosed cases of diabetes drives the spending of 10 percent of all healthcare dollars, representing about $245 billion a year in 2012, according to a new study in the journal Diabetes Care.

And while the cost of treating a diabetes patient has stayed relatively stable, the number of patients continues to proliferate. "Increased prevalence, not increased cost per patient, is the driving force behind the increased economic burden of diabetes," states the study, authored jointly by faculty with the American Diabetes Association and Louisiana State University.

Insurance coverage of diabetic patients also tends to play a role in healthcare costs, particularly at the hospital level. For example,Karen Slone, an administrative assistant in her 50s, had kept her diabetes in check until she lost her job. That prompted Slone to put off care for her foot, which eventually led to its partial amputation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Although Slone was able to regain insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, studies indicated diabetic patients who have low educational attainment struggle to connect with primary care physicians and other providers who can help keep their medical issues in check, and that the mortality rate from diabetes tends to be higher in less educated patients.

Of nearly equal concern is the growth of patients with prediabetic conditions and those who have diabetes but are undiagnosed. The study concluded that the cost of prediabetes increased 74 percent, while the cost of undiagnosed cases rose 82 percent. Altogether, those two components cost the healthcare system $77 billion a year.

"The increasing cost burden of prediabetes is especially troubling, as it points to not just a current economic burden but to the potentially greater future burden of new cases of diagnosed diabetes unless diabetes prevention efforts are implemented and successful," the study states.

To learn more:
- here's the Diabetes Care study
- check out the Los Angeles Times article