PRINCETON, NJ (November 27, 2009) – The diabetes population in the United States will almost double over the next 25 years and annual medical spending on the disease is projected to hit $336 billion, up from $113 billion today, according to a study published in the December issue of Diabetes Care. The National Changing Diabetes® Program (NCDP), a program of Novo Nordisk, commissioned the analysis by a team from the University of Chicago.
According to the forecast, the number of Americans living with diabetes will rise from 23.7 million in 2009 to 44.1 million in 2034. For the Medicare program, the increases over the next 25 years are even more dramatic: the number of Americans living with diabetes and covered by Medicare will rise from 6.5 million to 14.1 million, and Medicare spending on diabetes will almost quadruple, skyrocketing from $45 billion this year to $171 billion in 2034. Based on this projection, “Medicare spending alone will represent just over 50% of direct spending on diabetes in 2034,” the authors concluded.
Unlike past efforts to predict trends in diabetes, the model developed by the University of Chicago team considers the natural progression of the disease, effects of treatment and obesity rates in the United States, which are “factors that are currently not used by government budget analysts,” according to the authors.
“Obesity is a significant driver of future increases in the number of Americans with diabetes,” said Michael O’Grady, Ph.D., one of the study authors and a senior fellow at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. “While our modeling, as well as that done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, project obesity rates leveling off, neither model has obesity rates lowering substantially. High obesity rates among the American population over an extended period of time substantially increases the probability of developing type 2 diabetes.”
This forecasting model, which the authors contend improves the rigor of the estimates of health care spending for diabetes, was designed to inform policymakers as they explore ways to control spiraling health care costs. Currently, official government estimates of the potential costs and cost offsets associated with proposed preventive health legislation do not consider savings that may occur more than 10 years out, thus providing an incomplete view of preventive health measures as an investment.
“The size of the current diabetes population exceeds many prior forecasts and we expect that the future growth of population and its associated costs will be explosive. Finding ways to reduce the number of people who develop diabetes is both a national public health priority and a fiscal imperative,” said Dr. Elbert Huang, the lead author of the paper and an assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. “The best way to stem the dramatic rise in diabetes is to implement proven preventive care programs on a national level. This will require that policymakers understand that diabetes prevention is a long-term investment that will only reap benefits over decades, not years.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which assesses the cost of proposed legislation, does not typically consider any cost savings beyond 10 years. Because diabetes develops over a long period of time, with the highest costs coming later in life of the disease, savings are far more apparent at 25 years than at 10 years. For this reason, policymakers need a long-term analysis of costs in order to make accurate decisions that reflect the true impact of prevention programs.
“Managing diabetes means preventing the pain and expense of diabetes complications, including heart disease, amputation, kidney disease, and blindness,” said Michael Mawby, Chief Government Affairs Officer and director of the NCDP, a diabetes leadership initiative established by Novo Nordisk to drive health systems change at the national and local level, which funded the research. “Therefore, it is critical that lawmakers see the long-term projections of the impact of diabetes interventions.”
Legislation introduced earlier this year is designed to lead to a more accurate assessment of the costs and benefits of preventive health, including preventing complications and delaying progression of chronic diseases such as diabetes. The bipartisan Preventive Health Savings Act of 2009 (HR 3148), calls on the CBO to weigh clinical or observational studies when modeling projected costs and savings related to preventive health, and in certain circumstances, to look beyond the traditional 10-year budget window.
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Source: The National Changing Diabetes® Program (NCDP) press release