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Out-of-Pocket Costs Are Tough on Americans With Diabetes
  • Posted February 21, 2024

Out-of-Pocket Costs Are Tough on Americans With Diabetes

People with diabetes have to spend a ton of money to stay healthy, a new study reports.

Total and out-of-pocket costs for diabetics run hundreds to thousands of dollars more than regular medical expenses for people without diabetes, researchers found.

Type 1 diabetes costs nearly $25,700 a year to properly manage, with out-of-pocket charges running more than $2,000 for patients, researchers said.

Type 2 diabetes expenses followed closely behind, with more than $22,400 in total costs and $1,500 in out-of-pocket expenses each year.

By comparison, healthy people had more than $14,200 in annual medical costs and paid a little more than $1,100 out of pocket.

Experts say this is troubling because it's important to control diabetes, lest it lead to long-term health complications.

"Studies show that the more a patient pays out-of-pocket, the less likely they are to stick with their medication long-term, which poses a serious risk to their health,"said researcher Evan Reynolds, lead statistician for the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies at Michigan Medicine.

For the study, researchers tracked total and out-of-pocket costs between 2009 and 2018, using a national health insurance claims database.

They also analyzed specific amounts spent on medications, diabetes-related supplies, visits to providers, hospitalizations and ER visits.

During the period studied, total costs increased for all groups, researchers said.

However, only those with type 1 diabetes experienced a growth in out-of-pocket expenses, results show.

The new study was published recently in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

"If the trends we observed continue, people with type 1 diabetes will be facing increasingly unaffordable out-of-pocket costs,"Reynolds said.

The rising price of diabetes drugs is the major driver behind this trend, accounting for the largest portion of out-of-pocket costs, researchers found.

Insulin and other blood sugar-controlling medications in particular have steadily increased in price for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics, results show.

People with type 1 diabetes also are facing increases in diabetes management supplies like syringes, pumps and test strips.

"We worry about the inability of patients to afford any preventative health care services,"senior researcher Dr. Brian Callaghan, a neurologist at University of Michigan Health, said in a university news release. "Preventative measures for diabetes are not only effective for health, but can save money in the long run."

Rising prices for controlling diabetes have toxic effects on a diabetic's finances, which in turn can cause further health problems, researchers said.

"Financial toxicity is when medical expenses begin to negatively affect all areas of a patient's life, impacting both their physical and mental health,"Reynolds explained. "Diabetes care providers should be actively screening for the side effects of these costs, looking for signs of depression or anxiety."

Reynolds called on regulators and officials to curb the cost of diabetes medications.

"We need to enact policies that will either reduce or stabilize out-of-pocket costs and encourage people to properly treat their diabetes,"Reynolds said. "With medications coming out on top in cost and utilization, lowering insulin prices is imperative right now."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about living with diabetes.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Feb. 15, 2024

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