UnitedHealth: Cost of diabetes could be $3.35 trillion by 2020

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes and the related costs of the disease could reach catastrophic proportions, according to new research by the UnitedHealth Group.

The new projections are alarming, as more than 50% of Americans could have prediabetes or diabetes by 2020, which could carry a healthcare price tag of $3.35 trillion over the decade. New estimates show diabetes and prediabetes will account for an estimated 10% of total healthcare spending by the end of the decade at an annual cost of almost $500 billion — up from an estimated $194 billion this year, UnitedHealth said in its new report, “The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead.”

Estimates in the report were calculated using the same model as the widely-cited 2007 study on the national cost burden of diabetes commissioned by the American Diabetes Association, UnitedHealth noted.

“Our new research shows there is a diabetes time bomb ticking in America, but fortunately there are practical steps that can be taken now to defuse it,” said Simon Stevens, UnitedHealth Group EVP and chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization. “What is now needed is concerted, national, multistakeholder action. 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. Done right, the human and economic benefits for the nation could be substantial.”

The report also focused on obesity and its relationship to diabetes, as the condition as one of the primary risk factors for diabetes — more than half of adults in the country who are overweight or obese have either prediabetes or diabetes, and studies have shown that gaining just 11 to 16 lbs. doubles the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and gaining 17 to 24 lbs. nearly triples the risk.

Click here to read the full report.

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