The Staggering Cost of Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), total annual costs associated with diagnosed diabetes cases increased by 41 percent between 2007 and 2012. These costs include the financial burden for treatment, costs for health resources used and lost productivity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected that diabetes will become one of the world's top disablers and killers within 25 years.

It is also one of the most expensive of the major diseases to treat. Perhaps the most startling statistic to emerge from the research done by the ADA is that health care for people with diagnosed diabetes costs more than one in five of the health dollars spent in the United States. Of that amount, more than half is directly attributable to treatment of diabetes. Much of the remainder is spent to treat the many co-morbidities of diabetes.

These numbers point to the tremendous financial burden of treating diabetes, a burden that will continue to grow as time goes on.

Cost Comparisons and Breakdowns

The total ADA estimated cost for care of those in the U.S. with diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion. By comparison, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates the nationwide annual cost for cancer will reach $158 billion by 2020 (an increase of 27 percent over 2010) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gives a figure of $108.9 billion annually for treatment of heart disease.

Of the $245 billion cost for diabetes, $176 billion was for direct medical costs and $69 billion was for reduced productivity. Of course, these are only the tangible costs, the ones that can be calculated in dollars. The intangible costs, including pain and suffering, care provided by unpaid caretakers and the potential burden of those with undiagnosed diabetes, were not included in these estimates.

According to the ADA, people who have been diagnosed with diabetes spend about $13,700 per year on medical expenses. Of this amount, about $7,900 is directly attributable to diabetes. These figures are approximately 2.3 times higher than medical expenses would be for a non-diabetic.

Who Pays the Costs

The largest portion of medical care costs in the U.S. (62.4 percent) is paid by the government, through Medicaid, Medicare and the military. The remainder is paid through private insurance (34.4 percent) or private funds (3.2 percent).

Of course, the largest non-monetary cost is paid by those with diabetes. They are the ones who pay with worry, pain and discomfort, lost work time, the need to manage multiple disorders, disability and the imposition of all of these concerns into their personal and family life.

Imagine the impact a reduced rate of diabetes cases would have on our national fiscal priorities.

Perhaps some of these many billions of dollars could be spent educating and testing the population so that diabetes can be caught early, preventing the complications that so badly impact the future for so many Americans.

Sources: World Health Organization, American Diabetes Association, Centers for Disease Control and National Cancer Institute

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