More than half of Americans will have diabetes or be prediabetic by 2020 at a cost to the U.S. health care system of $3.35 trillion if current trends go on unabated, according to analysis of a new report released last week by health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc….
Diabetes and prediabetes will account for an estimated 10% of total health care spending by the end of the decade at an annual cost of almost $500 billion — up from an estimated $194 billion this year, according to the report titled "The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead." (See this week’s Tool for Your Practice.)
The average annual health care costs in 2009 for a person with known diabetes were about $11,700 compared with about $4,400 for non-diabetics, according to new data in the report drawn from 10 million United Healthcare members.
The average annual cost nearly doubles to $20,700 for a person with complications related to diabetes, the report said.
Diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions and is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States, currently affects about 26 million Americans. Another 67 million Americans are estimated to have prediabetes, with more than 60 million unaware that they have the condition, according to UnitedHealth.
The 52-page UnitedHealth report also focuses on the growing obesity epidemic as that condition is a leading cause of diabetes.
The authors of the report contend the skyrocketing cost forecasts are not inevitable but only if the crisis is tackled aggressively, including early intervention to prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes.
"Because diabetes follows a progressive course, often starting with obesity and then moving to prediabetes, there are multiple opportunities to intervene early on and prevent this devastating disease before it’s too late," Deneen Vojta, senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, said in a statement.
The report also focuses on obesity and its relationship to diabetes. Being overweight or obese is one of the primary risk factors for diabetes, and with more than two-thirds of American adults and 17 percent of children overweight or obese, the risk is clearly rising. In fact, over half of adults in the U.S. who are overweight or obese have either prediabetes or diabetes, and studies have shown that gaining just 11-16 pounds doubles the risk of Type 2 diabetes and gaining 17-24 pounds nearly triples the risk.
"What is now needed is concerted, national, multi-stakeholder action," Simon Stevens, chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, said in a statement. "Making a major impact on the prediabetes and diabetes epidemic will require health plans to engage consumers in new ways, while working to scale nationally some of the most promising preventive care models." Stevens added.
If solutions for tackling the epidemic offered in the report were adopted broadly and scaled nationally it could lead to cost savings of up to $250 billion over the next 10 years, according to the UnitedHealth analysis.