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Report sheds light on regional diabetes prevalence, cost


A new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has eye-opening findings about diabetes prevalence, severity and cost.

Diabetes ranks third in health impact on quality of life and costs, according to a new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes according to the CDC.

The study, which represents an analysis of the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Health Index data on diabetes, which leverages the claims of more than 40 million BCBS members, also showed that the health impact of diabetes continues to grow and is increasing most rapidly among members aged 18 through 34 years. This corresponds to this age group’s spike in obesity rates, a key contributor to the onset of diabetes.

The prevalence and severity of diabetes, as well as years of life lost due to disability and risk of premature death, ranks third among more than 200 conditions

Brooks“Diabetes is one of the top five health conditions that, according to the BCBS Health Index, are responsible for nearly a third of adverse health outcomes nationwide,” says Ron Brooks, MD, senior network medical director, Independence Blue Cross. “An analysis of the Health Index by Moody’s Analytics found a direct link between healthy people and a healthy economy with healthier counties having lower unemployment and higher incomes. This information is vital to health executives focused on improving the health of their communities.” 

Other study findings include: 

  • Diabetes accounts for 9.3% of the health impact of more than 200 conditions on commercially insured Americans-greater than heart disease, substance abuse and COPD.
  • Diabetes has the highest health impact on communities in the Southeast and Central South-approximately 50% higher than the national average; the lowest diabetes impact is in New England and the Mountain regions.

“Health plans must continue their focus on helping members prevent diabetes and ensuring those who already have the disease have the benefits, resources, and support they need to avoid unnecessary complications, such as eye and kidney problems,” Brooks says.

Next: What one plan is doing



What one health plan is doing

For example, according to Brooks, in southeastern Pennsylvania, Independence Blue Cross:

• Rewards doctors for helping patients better manage their diabetes, including keeping critical blood glucose levels with target ranges, getting eye screenings, and monitoring their kidney function.

• Empowers doctors by providing reports on their patients with diabetes who haven’t been seen in more than a year.

• Engages members with diabetes through text messages to identify gaps in care, such as getting their blood glucose tests or eye exams. Members who receive these texts are 11 percent more compliant with these tests and screenings than members who are eligible for the text message program, but choose not to participate.

• Offers two Medicare Advantage programs with lower doctor visit copays for members with both diabetes and congestive heart failure who see their endocrinologist, podiatrist, and cardiologist.

• Provides health coaches who regularly help members prevent acute issues related to diabetes that might result in an ER visit, hospitalization, or worsening condition.

“People with diabetes can take charge of their lives and help themselves live a longer, more complication free, and healthier life by doing things such as losing as little as 10 pounds, exercising and eating healthier foods,” Brooks says. “Also, people with pre-diabetes are at an increased risk of developing the disease. That’s why it’s also very important for them to maintain a healthy weight, exercise and eat healthy.”



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