Diabetes is an urgent, ever-growing problem that many Americans confront each day. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 37 million people have diabetes in the US — about one in 10 people — the majority of which live with type 2 diabetes. Of that number, 8.5 million — one in five — don’t know they have it. Perhaps even more worrisome, of the 96 million American adults with prediabetes, more than eight in 10 aren’t aware of it. However, life-saving simple daily practices, like eating healthy and increasing activity levels, can cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half.
Experts predict the number of Americans with type 2 diabetes will increase if no action is taken. It is estimated that one in three US adults could have diabetes by 2050.
People with diabetes or prediabetes often look to their employer-sponsored health plan for help in accessing the preventive care services they need. Whether it’s providing full coverage for medication or ensuring access to disease management tools, the type of coverage your health plan offers can make a big difference in preventing, detecting, and managing diabetes.
The current standard of care for type 2 diabetes in the US involves regular visits to a healthcare professional who guides patients diagnosed with diabetes through various lifestyle changes that help them manage their disease. Yet, the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report — which collected data from 2015-2018 — illustrates that there is still much work to be done to ensure people with diabetes have access to the care and services they need to control their condition. According to the report, among US adults 18 or older with diabetes:
34.3% were physically inactive, defined as getting less than 10 minutes a week of moderate or vigorous activity in each physical activity category of work, leisure time, and transportation.
89.8% were overweight or had obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m2 or higher.
49.4% had an A1C value of 7.0% or higher (normal range 5.7% or below).
For diabetes patients, having a health plan that covers care costs related to the management of diabetes, as well as preventive care services for those with prediabetes, is crucial to achieving better health outcomes.
While diabetes certainly takes a physical toll on patients, the condition also places a significant financial burden on patients. According to Diabetes.org, average medical costs for people diagnosed with diabetes were more than twice as high as for those without diabetes. Specifically, people with diabetes spend 240% more on medical bills and 450% more on pharmacy costs each year than non-diabetics.
A 2021 study analyzing the early burden of diabetes found that, over the first five years after diagnosis, patients spent an average of $8,941 more on medical expenditures than non-diabetics. Around half of that amount was spent during the first year of diagnosis. Researchers also found an incremental rise in diabetes-related costs that begin at least five years before a patient receives a diagnosis, which only further accelerates immediately after a diagnosis.
In 2017, direct medical costs for people with diagnosed diabetes in the US added up to $237 billion. Moreover, the national cost of diabetes reached $90 billion due to reduced productivity from work-related absenteeism, reduced productivity at work and at home, unemployment from chronic disability, and premature mortality. Considering people who have diabetes are at a higher risk of developing additional serious health complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke, it’s easy for patients to feel overwhelmed by seemingly endless medical bills that come with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Though people with diabetes face various struggles related to their condition, preventive care services can make a significant difference in diabetes detection and management.
In his recent book Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity, Dr. Peter Attia discusses his vision for the US healthcare industry to shift from “Medicine 2.0,” a reactive approach to medicine that prioritizes treating “acute illnesses and injuries”, to “Medicine 3.0,” a model that focuses on preventive care.
“One of Attia’s goals in writing Outlive was to make people more focused on their healthspan by understanding the complex science behind preventing what he calls the “four horsemen” of chronic disease—cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s— by employing easily digestible advice on exercise, nutrition, sleep, and more,” explains HoneHealth.
As a practice of Medicine 3.0, lifestyle changes are simple steps everyone can take to lower their chances of developing diabetes:
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, excess weight is the single most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Patients who are obese are 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes compared to patients at a healthy weight. If you are at higher risk, dropping 7-10 percent of your current weight can cut your probability of developing type 2 diabetes in half.
The less activity, the greater the risk. A brisk, daily, 30-minute walk reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.
Diets that contain whole grain products over refined grains and other highly processed carbohydrates are the best option for preventing the onset of diabetes. Swap red and processed meats for nuts, beans, poultry, and fish. Opt for healthy fats. Avoid sugary drinks and choose water, coffee, or tea instead. Use alcohol in moderation.
Smoking dramatically increases the likelihood of developing diabetes. Smokers are twice as likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis than non-smokers, with heavy smokers at extreme risk.
Routine health screenings are the only way to actively monitor diabetes status, informing sound health decisions with regular updates from health professionals. The best health plans provide preventive care coverage.
Despite its significance, the diabetes health screening adherence rate has considerable room for improvement. A 2022 study published in The Lancet Regional Health found that:
Adherence rates among individuals who sought diabetes care were 69.9% for males versus 79.8% for females.
Younger participants showed less adherence, with a bigger difference between males and females aged 40-44 years (58.0% in males, 72.6% in females).
Among individuals who adhered to screening guidelines, prediabetes and diabetes rates were:
Males – prediabetes 15.7%; diabetes 2.6% (diagnosed during screening) and 3.2 % more in follow-up appointments
Females – prediabetes 13.4%; diabetes 1.5% (diagnosed during screening) and 1.9% more in follow-up appointments
Among those who did not adhere to screening guidelines, prediabetes, and diabetes incidence rates during the follow-up period were:
Males – prediabetes 8.8%; diabetes 2.1%
Females – prediabetes 7.3%; diabetes 1.3%
Though a prediabetes diagnosis can be scary, knowing you have the condition is the first step to managing it. Lifestyle change programs, like Curative’s Prediabetes Program or the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program, guide you through the important changes you can make to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes:
Introducing more physical activity into your day-to-day
Exploring healthy eating, including how and where to access fresh foods
Understanding how to manage stress, stay motivated, and address problems that could slow your progress
Finding support from people with prediabetes who have similar goals and challenges
Working with a trained coach to establish lasting lifestyle changes
By committing to these lifestyle changes, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent.
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you’re not in this alone. A few tips to manage your type 2 diabetes as outlined by the CDC include:
Use a blood sugar meter (glucometer) or a continuous glucose monitor to check blood sugar.
Check blood sugar upon waking, before meals, two hours after, and bedtime. Your doctor may recommend more frequent checks, especially if you get sick.
Know your blood sugar targets. Before a meal should be 80-130 mg/dL. Two hours after the start of a meal should be less than 180 mg/dL.
As a Curative member, your health plan provides built-in access to the right support, education, and resources you need to manage your condition. Your Curative Care Navigator or clinician at your Baseline Visit can connect you to Curative programs to help you manage type 2 diabetes, such as monitoring blood sugar levels and connecting you with a nutritionist. Whether you’re trying to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes or you’ve just been diagnosed, preventive care coverage with Curative sets you up for success.
Curative wants people to love using their health benefits. Our health plan actually delivers better health through affordability, engagement, and simplicity.
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**In order to qualify, members must complete a Baseline Visit within the first 120 days of the plan effective date.
For more information on how Curative’s preventive care coverage helps you prevent, detect, and manage diabetes, visit our members page.
Minemyer, P. (14 Mar 2023). Here’s how much diabetes costs employers each year. Fierce Healthcare. https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/heres-how-much-diabetes-costs-employers-each-year
National diabetes statistics report. CDC. Last updated 29 June 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics-report/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fdiabetes%2Fdata%2Fstatistics%2Fstatistics-report.html
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Statistics about diabetes. American Diabetes Association. Last updated 28 July 2022. https://diabetes.org/about-us/statistics/about-diabetes
Khan, Tamkeen, et al. (2021). Trends in medical expenditures prior to diabetes diagnosis: the early burden of diabetes. Population Health Management. 24(1):46-51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7875131/
Harding, R. (14 April 2023). Want to live longer? Focus on these three things, says longevity doc Peter Attia. The Edge. https://honehealth.com/edge/health/peter-attia-book-outlive-pillars-of-health/
Simple steps to preventing diabetes. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Last accessed 1 July 2023. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story/
Kaul, P, et al. (2022). Disparities in adherence to diabetes screening guidelines among males and females in a universal care setting: A population-based study of 1,380,679 adults. The Lancet Regional Health - Americas. Vol. 14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667193X22001375?via%3Dihub
Living with diabetes. CDC. Last updated 9 March 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/index.html
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