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Support reauthorization of Special Diabetes Program

(Thanks to the Friends Committee on National Legislation for bringing this to our attention, and for reusing their words and information.)

Diabetes is a serious, disabling and potentially fatal disease. Investing relatively small amounts of money to help people with diabetes manage their disease and control its effects can enable them to take back their lives.  Diabetes particularly affects American Indian and Alaska Native communities.  They are burdened with diabetes at 2.8 times the national average.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) has introduced a bill (H.R. 6309) to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program. The two programs under this title, the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, will expire in September 2013. The Special Diabetes Programs have been in operation since 1997, and have generated documented results that show significant strides in controlling the effects of diabetes and even reversing it. The Department of Health and Human Services will soon release a comprehensive report that includes the most recent data available.

In American Indian and Alaska Native communities, funding for diabetes prevention and treatment has led to significant documented decreases in blood-sugar levels, LDL cholesterol levels, and the need for dialysis. The great strides made in the decrease of End Stage Renal Disease, one serious outcome of diabetes, show the dramatic effects that a focus on prevention can have. Between 1995 and 2006, the incidence of ESRD among American Indians and Alaska Natives with diabetes dropped by 27.7 percent. The savings from this reduction is considerable: each Medicare patient who does not have to be treated with hemodialysis for ESRD saves the government nearly $90,000 a year. Getting this serious disease under control saves a lot more than health care costs – it saves lives and restores a healthy quality life to those afflicted.

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, in 2007 it cost $116 billion to treat about 26 million diabetic patients across the country. This reauthorization legislation calls for annual funding of $200 million for each of the two programs for FY 2014 through FY 2018. These comprehensive programs together would invest $400 million a year in research, intervention and prevention – a fraction of what it would cost to treat diabetes.

Another comparison: if the Special Diabetes Programs can remove the need for dialysis for about 4,700 patients a year (out of the 5 to 10 million diabetics in the U.S. who are currently likely to develop a need for dialysis), the programs will pay for themselves. When the added costs of treating heart disease, renal dysfunctions, and eye and foot complications are factored in, the health care savings realized by investments in these preventive programs will be truly phenomenal.

Please contact the members of your U.S. Congressional delegation (your House representative and your two senators) and urge them to support the reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program.   You can find your senators and representative here.  Opportunities for reauthorization may yet arise this year as other legislation moves through Congress after the election.