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Diabetes and Long Term Health Insurance: Put The “D” And The “L” Word

Diabetes is a syndrome characterized by disordered metabolism and abnormally high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) resulting from insufficient levels of the hormone insulin. In layman's terms, the body can't effectively utilize glucose for its energy needs. As a result, extra glucose is expelled in the urine while glucose levels rise in the blood. We once thought that diabetes was irreversible.

The United States is threatened by an epidemic of diabetes, a disease in which elevated blood glucose levels damage nerve endings and blood vessels, leading to serious health complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke. Today, an estimated 18 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and 1 million more are diagnosed each year. The rapid increase in diabetes cases today is blamed on people's sedentary lifestyle and the tendency of dining out.

The people most at risk of developing diabetes are those with a family history of diabetes, overweight, low HDL and High LDL, and high blood pressure. Women who have gestational diabetes or have a history of delivering large babies are also at an increased risk of developing diabetes.

The problem facing people diagnosed with diabetes is that medical care and supplies needed to monitor and control blood glucose levels are expensive. In order to manage diabetes, a person needs routinely test and control blood glucose levels, which can reach hundreds of dollars per month. These costs are sometimes not covered or difficult to obtain by health insurance, with devastating consequences. Worse, uninsured persons are far less likely to receive needed care and effectively manage their disease.

People with diabetes are most in need of long term heath insurance, especially today when many companies across the United States are cutting jobs. Once an employee is laid off from a job, he usually loses his health insurance immediately. As a result, about 2 million Americans lose health insurance coverage every month. (That’s around two million free health insurance leads for the consummate insurance salesman.)

Once a person loses his health insurance coverage, he may experience difficulties in regaining it. The job market is difficult today with more and more companies laying off employees. A person criticallly ill with diabetes may experience difficulties in applying for individual health insurance coverage, especially with their history of the disease. The insurance plans that cover diabetes are usually unaffordable to low-income people or provide inadequate care.

Of the people diagnosed with diabetes, about 39% are covered by private health insurance, 44% were covered by Medicare, while the rest were uninsured. Those uninsured people with diabetes are predominantly minority and have low income. As a result, they receive fewer preventive services than individuals with health insurance.

The United States must promote and expand health insurance coverage that is available, affordable, and adequate to meet the needs of people diagnosed with diabetes. It is important to do this to improve the quality of life and life expectancy of people diagnosed with diabetes. Expenses to treat people diagnosed with diabetes have been shown to be a major drain on health- and productivity-related resources for healthcare systems and governments. Several countries have already established more successful national diabetes programs to improve treatment of the disease.