Currently, 57 million Americans have elevated blood glucose levels that place them at risk for developing diabetes unless there is intervention. Who better than a diabetes educator to intervene?
That’s the latest stance of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, which is now actively lobbying Congress and calling on private insurers to recognize that the services delivered by its members—which include counseling about nutrition, exercise, and the psychological aspects of lifestyle modification—can bring tangible benefits to those at risk for diabetes as well as those who already have it, AADE president Deborah Fillman said during the association’s annual meeting in San Antonio.
Specifically, AADE is asking Congress to further expand the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 to include coverage for Diabetes Self-Management Education/Training (DSME/T) for people with pre-diabetes in addition to those with diabetes.
The association cites data from a retroactive claims analysis of 250,000 Medicare beneficiaries showing an average cost savings of $135 per patient per month for those who completed a DSMT program, and an inpatient cost savings of $160 per patient per month. Other data have shown conclusively that lifestyle intervention such as that delivered by diabetes educators reduces the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes.
But with a shortage of specialized healthcare providers to meet the needs of the 24 million Americans who are already diagnosed with diabetes, how does AADE envision tackling pre-diabetes as well? “The first key is that we have the skill set to do it. The rest of it we’ll have to work on, including the reimbursement issue and increasing our numbers,” Ms. Fillman, a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator, told me.
At the same time, she added, “We’re already doing behavior change. We already work with family members of people with diabetes. In many ways we’re already doing diabetes prevention. It’s just not recognized.”
—Miriam E. Tucker (on Twitter @MiriamETucker)