Diabetes Education Under-used by Medicare Recipients

A paid Medicare benefit for diabetes education is rarely used by those who qualify for it, despite the fact that diabetes education provides clear health benefits.

Diabetes self-management education, or DSMT, is a Medicare-paid benefit that many people with diabetes do not know about. It provides critical knowledge and skills training to patients with diabetes, helping them identify barriers to wellness and develop coping skills to effectively manage their diabetes and related chronic conditions. By doing so, it prevents or delays complications and reduces the burden of diabetes on the healthcare system.

Nearly two-thirds of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are not able to successfully manage the condition and are exceeding recommended glucose levels. Nevertheless, diabetes education is far under-utilized. According to recent research from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, roughly 8.5 million Americans covered by Medicare have diabetes. Of those, only 58,000–less than one percent of those eligible-received the educational services that were due to them through Medicare.

Diabetes education is provided by diabetes educators who are already licensed in a healthcare specialty. They are often registered nurses, registered dietitians, or pharmacists. Many carry the additional designation of Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). In order to see a diabetes educator, patients may ask their doctor for a referral. Doctors who do not know any diabetes educators can visit www.diabeteseducator.org/find to locate one. There may be a co-pay, but it will be small, particularly when compared to the health benefits the patients receive.

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