A new report by UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform & Modernization estimates that more than 50 percent of Americans could have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020 at a cost of $3.35 trillion over the next decade if current trends continue.
If this estimate is correct diabetes and prediabetes will account for an estimated 10 percent of total health care spending by the end of the decade at an annual cost of almost $500 billion – up from an estimated $194 billion in 2010.
The report “The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead,” produced for November’s National Diabetes Awareness month, also focuses on obesity and its relationship to diabetes. Being overweight or obese is one of the primary risk factors for diabetes, and with more than two-thirds of American adults and 17 percent of children overweight or obese, the risk is clearly rising. In fact, over half of adults in the U.S. who are overweight or obese have either prediabetes or diabetes, and studies have shown that gaining just 11-16 pounds doubles the risk of type 2 diabetes and gaining 17-24 pounds nearly triples the risk.
The authors of the report offer some practical solutions that could improve health and life expectancy, while also saving up to $250 billion over the next 10 years, if programs to prevent and control diabetes are adopted broadly and scaled nationally. This figure includes $144 billion in potential savings to the federal government in Medicare, Medicaid and other public programs. Key solution steps include lifestyle interventions to combat obesity and prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes, and medication control programs and lifestyle intervention strategies to help improve diabetes control.