The True Costs of Diabetes

As one might expect from an epidemic that continues to get larger every year, the cost of treating diabetes continues to rise unabated.

The most recent statistics released by the American Diabetes Association are for 2012. The headline of their report was a 41 percent increase in the total costs of diabetes care between 2007 and 2012. Compare this to the 23 percent increase in total cases of diabetes, diagnosed and undiagnosed, between 2007 and 2012 to see that treating diabetes has become increasingly expensive per capita.

In absolute dollars, this means that in 2007 the total cost of diabetes to the United States was $174 billion (direct costs for treatment were $116 billion, and indirect costs were $58 billion). By 2012, that total cost had risen to $245 billion (direct costs of $176 billion, and indirect costs of $69 billion).

Another statistic of note in the 2013 report was the fact that costs of medical care for diabetics were 2.3 times higher than the costs of medical care for non-diabetics.

The Real Cost of Diabetes

Another view of the direct costs of treating diabetes and its complications was put together by a group of researchers using economic modeling. Depending upon age of onset and sex of the patient, they calculated that the lifetime direct cost of treatment of diabetes in the United States ranged from about $55,000 to about $120,000 per person, with an average of $85,000.

The American Diabetes Association measurement of expenses for treatment include direct medical costs (doctor visits, hospital stays and diabetic medications) and indirect medical costs (absenteeism, reduced productivity, unemployment as the result of diabetes-related disability, and the loss of productivity resulting from premature death).

The cost of treating diabetes is not only the cost to the individual, the family or the insurance company. There are also costs imposed on the entire population in the form of increasingly higher taxes going to Medicaid, Medicare and military insurance as well as to government expenditures supporting education about and research on diabetes; the increased costs of goods and services that result from lost productivity; and the diversion of pharmaceutical research resources to diabetic treatments as opposed to treatments of other diseases and disorders.

The Intangible Cost of Diabetes

The real cost of diabetes to the patient is the intangible cost. Patients sometimes feel ill or experience pain, particularly when they are suffering from comorbidities. They worry about their future health and the impact on their families. Sometimes they experience anxiety or depression. Then there is the financial burden, the inconvenience to the family when they cannot shoulder their responsibilities. All lead to a lessened quality of life, and all are costs that the diabetic and his or her family and friends bear every day. These are the costs that are the most difficult to quantify.

Sources: American Diabetes Association, DiabetesPro and MedScape

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