A new report by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), which examined diabetes related claims data of more than 40 million members, confirms that rates of diabetes (mainly type 2 diabetes) have almost doubled over the past 30 years.
Worryingly, the rate of diabetes has increased most among ages 18 to 34, mainly due to a spike in obesity rates among that age group. The study says that young adults show a 4.7 percent growth in diabetes from 2013 to 2015.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 million Americans have diabetes, and type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% to 95% of all diabetes cases. Therefore, the data presented are likely to be more typical of type 2 diabetes, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells are unable to properly use the insulin.
The report highlights how damaging diabetes is on people’s health, and how costly it is for those living with the condition. “Among the over 200 conditions measured by the BCBS Health Index, diabetes is third in terms of its health impact nationally on quality of life, and third in terms of per member cost for the commercially insured population,” the report says.
According to BCBS, each condition’s impact is determined based on the number of “years lost due to the risk of premature death and the disabling effects of illness or disease.”
“This report uniquely quantifies the health impact of diabetes on the longevity and quality of life,” said Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, in a press release.
The data also highlights diabetes’ impact based on location. Southeast and Central South regions were noted as having about 30% higher diabetes impact rates than New England and the Pacific Northwest. Only 3.3 percent of total BCBSA members in Idaho have diabetes, while 5.3 percent of members in Washington have diabetes.
Another decade-long study that was published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine shared findings that align with the BCBSA report. It indicated that the annual rate of newly-diagnosed cases of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in young people increased significantly from 2002-2012. The study also highlighted that the increase in rates of diabetes development varies greatly and is higher for youth of minority race or ethnicity, compared to white youth.
While it appears that BCBS is using their data to highlight important information, insurers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers have also come under fire for being part of the problem of unaffordable diabetes care.
BCBS claims to be working hard to solve the problem. “BCBS Plans have developed innovative programs in their local communities to manage and prevent diabetes through enhanced care coordination, workplace nutritional counseling, and behavioral health programs customized to member needs,” the report says.