Sebelius Releases Report on Health Insurance Reform and Diabetes

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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius helped kick off American Diabetes Month by releasing a report entitled “Preventing and Treating Diabetes: Health Insurance Reform and Diabetes in America.” The report came one day after Sebelius met with patients and caregivers of patients who have diabetes in Bradenton, Florida.

Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States. Estimates are that 7 percent of white Americans, 14 percent of Native Americans, 12 percent of African-Americans, and 10 percent of Hispanics have type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

According to the HHS report, about 16 percent of people who have diabetes avoid or delay seeking the medical care they need because of cost. Individuals with diabetes are at increased risk for stroke, blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and other complications, and regular doctor visits are recommended. Diabetes-related expenses also include items such as test strips, insulin, oral medications, and blood glucose monitors. Many people with diabetes find that their health insurance does not cover their diabetes-related expenses, which are more than double the costs of people who do not have diabetes.

The report also notes that 80 percent of people with diabetes were uninsured after they lost health insurance coverage due to loss of a job or job change, divorce, change in income or health status, or a move.

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According to the report, health insurance reform will reduce health care costs for people with diabetes by capping their yearly out-of-pocket expenses, eliminate discrimination for pre-existing conditions, develop a health insurance exchange option, extend coverage for preventive screenings, and reduce health disparities so that all Americans will have access to affordable health insurance and health care.

The report notes that “many individuals with diabetes lack or lose employer-sponsored coverage. Health insurance reform will create a health insurance exchange so families can compare prices and health plans in order to decide which quality affordable option is right for them.” Many Americans may well ask what is considered “affordable” and how long it will take for any type of health insurance exchange to be created. These questions are not addressed in the report.

Screening tests for pre-diabetes can reduce the chance of developing the disease if individuals take the initiative to make lifestyle changes to lower their risk. To that end, the report notes that health insurance reform plans to “create a proactive system that prevents illness and disease instead of a reactive system that just treats disease after it’s too late.” Exactly what this means and what it entails is not explained.

The report also mentions that health insurance reform “will provide a free annual wellness visit under Medicare and eliminate any copayments or deductible for preventive services,” which will be a help for seniors.

Consumers who want to learn more about what is in the “Preventing and Treating Diabetes: Health Insurance Reform and Diabetes in America” report can visit the website at www.HealthReform.gov and click on the option for the diabetes report.

SOURCE:
HHS Report, “Preventing and Treating Diabetes: Health Insurance Reform and Diabetes in America”

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