Half of Americans facing diabetes by 2020: report

NEW YORK Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:11am EST

A competitor prepares to go in front of judges at a casting call for the second season of the reality television programme ''Dance Your Ass Off'', during which overweight or obese contestants hope to lose weight by dancing, in New York December 18, 2009.REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly/Files

A competitor prepares to go in front of judges at a casting call for the second season of the reality television programme ''Dance Your Ass Off'', during which overweight or obese contestants hope to lose weight by dancing, in New York December 18, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than half of Americans will have diabetes or be prediabetic by 2020 at a cost to the U.S. health care system of $3.35 trillion if current trends go on unabated, according to analysis of a new report released on Tuesday by health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc.

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 this year, according to the report titled "The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead."

The average annual health care costs in 2009 for a person with known diabetes were about $11,700 compared with about $4,400 for the non-diabetic public, according to new data in the report drawn from 10 million UnitedHealthcare members.

The average annual cost nearly doubles to $20,700 for a person with complications related to diabetes, the report said. Complications related to diabetes can include heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, blindness and circulatory problems that can lead to wounds that will not heal and limb amputations.

Diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions and is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States, currently affects about 26 million Americans.

Another 67 million Americans are estimated to have prediabetes, which may not have any obvious symptoms. More than 60 million Americans are unaware that they have the condition, according to UnitedHealth.

People with prediabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetics often have other risk factors, such as overweight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The 52-page UnitedHealth report also focuses on the growing obesity epidemic as that condition is a leading cause of diabetes.

The authors of the report contend the skyrocketing cost forecasts are not inevitable, however, if the crisis is tackled aggressively, including early intervention to prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes.

"Because diabetes follows a progressive course, often starting with obesity and then moving to prediabetes, there are multiple opportunities to intervene early on and prevent this devastating disease before it's too late," Deneen Vojta, senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, said in a statement.

"What is now needed is concerted, national, multi-stakeholder action," Simon Stevens, chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, said in a statement.

"Making a major impact on the prediabetes and diabetes epidemic will require health plans to engage consumers in new ways, while working to scale nationally some of the most promising preventive care models." Stevens added.

If solutions for tackling the epidemic offered in the report were adopted broadly and scaled nationally it could lead to cost savings of up to $250 billion over the next 10 years, according to the UnitedHealth analysis.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; editing by Andre Grenon)

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Comments (9)
arttie wrote:
Our country is slowly going to hell. I think it’s time to intercede and require that ALL obese people be required to undergo some sort of positive education regarding their weight and the consequences for them. Once a person has completed an educational program then they should be held totally accountable for themselves and bear the cost of any treatment they may require that is directly related to their obesity. Why should healthy Americans bear the burden of the billions of dollars it costs this country to take care of people who obviously don’t give a damn about themselves. Make THEM pay for their diabetes treatment. And, yes, I would include families that allow their children to become obese, and those children. In fact, parents should be held totally accountable for the health of their children.
‘t

Nov 23, 2010 12:43am EST  --  Report as abuse
drybeans wrote:
This is not only about obese people by a long shot. That’s one main cause, but the other is the incredibly sugar rich diet that has more or less been forced on people in the US. It should be seen as a systemic issue instead of one of life style.

If you doubt my words I challenge you to go to Walmart, Kroger, or any other supermarket and just TRY to find a product that does not contain hydrogenated corn syrup, or other corn products. People eat poorly, but their options hardly make it clear what is good food and what is not.

Nov 23, 2010 2:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
finneganG wrote:
This is more about depression and a general fear and unhappiness with the lives of many of these overweight/obese people.

It is sad to see people compensating for a void in their lives by filling their stomach with junk food.

Fit individuals should show some compassion because obese people don’t want to be large, they want to be like everyone else.

Nov 23, 2010 11:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
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