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Diabetes Cases To Double In US

The study published in the December issue of Diabetes Care predicts that by 2034 about 44.1 million people will have the disease, up from 23.7 million today.  At the same time, the cost of treating people with diabetes will triple, rising from an estimated $113 billion in 2009 to $336 billion in 2034. 

Researchers note that a key factor driving the soaring costs is the number of people living with diabetes for lengthy periods.  Over time, the cost of caring for someone with diabetes tends to rise along with their risk for developing complications, such as end-stage renal disease, which requires costly dialysis according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

In making their estimates, researchers at the University of Chicago used data on people 24 to 85 years old who took part in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Study. 

Prior forecasts, including the ones currently used by the federal government’s budget analysts, have underestimated the burden, the researchers noted. A 1991 study, for example, predicted that 11.6 million people would have diabetes in 2030. In 2009, there were already more than twice that many living with diabetes. 

Among Medicare beneficiaries, the number with diabetes is expected to rise from 8.2 million to 14.6 million in 2034, with an accompanying rise in spending from $45 billion to $171 billion the study reveals.  The high cost of chronic disease is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States as legislators grapple with financial strains on Medicare and the larger issue of health-care reform, the researchers explained. 

Factors driving the increase in diabetes cases include the aging population and continued high rates of obesity, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t use it correctly.  In the study, the researchers assumed that the obesity rate would remain relatively stable, topping out at about 30 percent in the next decade and then declining slightly to about 27 percent in 2033.

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