Author Topic: Under new health law, insurers target diabetics before they get lax in managing costly disease  (Read 152 times)

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Offline jmyrlefuller

  • J. Myrle Fuller
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AP wire story
April 15, 2014

Diabetics beware. Your insurance company is looking for you.

As hundreds of thousands of diabetics get health coverage under the federal law, insurance companies are aggressively targeting this glut of new patients, who are expensive to treat and often lax in taking medications and following their diet.

Insurers are calling diabetics when they don't pick up prescriptions or miss appointments. They are arranging transportation to get them to the doctor's office and some are even sending nurses on house calls in an effort to avoid costly complications that will have big impact on their bottom lines.

Before the Affordable Care Act, some diabetics struggled to find insurance because of their pre-existing condition. But the new law no longer allows companies to refuse them or charge more, making early intervention even more critical.

About 60 percent or so people with Type 2 diabetes can keep side effects at bay by simply managing sugar levels, exercising and watching their weight, said Dr. Sam Nussbaum, a former endocrinologist at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital and an executive vice president for the insurer WellPoint.

On the flip side, if the disease is ignored, it can lead to multiple, severe complications. It's the leading cause of heart disease, strokes, kidney failure and vision loss.

A relatively healthy person with diabetes can cost insurers around $5,000 a year.

"But if you let any of those long-term, difficult complications develop, then you're talking $100,000 dollars plus," Nussbaum said.

About 26 million Americans have diabetes, and two-thirds of them are overweight or obese. Approximately 8 percent of Americans are estimated to have the disease, and insurers anticipate at least that percentage of the 7.5 million people now insured under the federal law will have diabetes.

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