By: Melissa Sattley
This year Christmas came in August for millions of people with diabetes. With a few strokes of his pen, President Clinton signed into law new Medicare policies and allocated $300 million for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. These funds are in addition to the money the NIH receives for diabetes research every year.
$300 Million Toward a Cure
The new Balanced Budget Act will significantly increase spending on diabetes by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Over a period of five years, $150 million will be allocated for the prevention and cure of type 1 diabetes.
The other $150 million will be dispensed over a period of five years for the prevention and treatment of diabetes in Native Americans. In many Native American communities diabetes afflicts as much as 50 percent of the population. Programs such as the Indian Health Service (IHS) and other health programs run by tribal organizations will benefit from these funds.
Good News for Medicare Recipients
In the past, Medicare only reimbursed those using insulin for supplies, leaving others who control their BGs with diet and pills to pay for supplies out of pocket.
Now, Medicare will invest $2.4 billion over the next five years to reimburse the costs of BG monitors and strips for the approximately three million senior citizens with diabetes whether they take insulin or not.
In addition, Medicare will reimburse educators who offer diabetes education in an outpatient setting – if a physician recommends it. In the past, the only education covered was within a hospital environment.
As before, Medicare will not cover medications or insulin.
Stephen J. Satalino, chair of the ADA, was pleased to hear of the changes, “By investing now in the tools and services that can help seniors manage their diabetes, we anticipate that Medicare can help reduce the enormous human and financial cost that accompanies diabetes complications.”
Each year, diabetes costs the United States approximately $138 billion. Diabetes patients are only nine percent of Medicare’s recipients, however the yearly costs of diabetes care are nearly 25 percent of Medicare’s budget.
The President Speaks
Announcing the new diabetes initiatives at Georgetown University Medical Center, President Clinton brought diabetes close to home. He spoke of a friend, who worked as campaign manager in his first political run for a seat in the House of Representatives who later died from diabetes complications.
He also recalled a man in his church choir in Little Rock who was forced to quit singing when his diabetes became too severe. “I have these vivid memories every Sunday, of standing there looking at him sitting in the church with the pain on his face of not being able to do it anymore.”
Clinton hailed the NIH workshop Diabetes Mellitus: Challenges and Opportunities which will be held September 4 and 5 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The workshop will host researchers from across the country to help plan the NIH’s direction for diabetes research.
Clinton also offered special thanks to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and congresswoman Elizabeth Furse (D-OR) for co-founding, along with George Nethercutt (R-WA), the Bipartisan Congressional Diabetes Caucus. The caucus was instrumental in getting the new Medicare expenditures approved.
He also gave special praise to actress Mary Tyler Moore, the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, for her advocacy. “She has awakened the conscience of our nation and indeed the entire world about this issue, thank you for your tireless and selfless efforts.”
S. Robert Levine, MD, chairman of JDF Government Relations committee says the Bipartisan Congressional Diabetes Caucus was an example of good politics. “It was a shining moment when everyone worked together and the end result was spectacular.”
The new Balanced Budget Act policies will take effect on July 1, 1998.