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Rockefeller Takes Aim at Diabetes in WV - Bill Would Extend New Prevention Program to Medicare

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Senator Jay Rockefeller today announced that he is working on a bill to help combat diabetes by making more West Virginians eligible for preventive care. The bill expands that National Diabetes Prevention Program to those enrolled in Medicare -- a change that studies show will improve care and reduce health care costs.

"Diabetes is a national epidemic and particularly serious problem in West Virginia, affecting more than 1 in 10 adults in the state," said Rockefeller. "This bill will combat this illness head on by expanding a proven diabetes prevention program to Medicare. It will improve the health of millions of seniors and individuals with disabilities -- and in many cases help them avoid diabetes -- reduce health costs nationwide, and create jobs. This bill is a win-win, and I can't overstate the importance of it and this program for our families and communities."

The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act will help seniors and individuals with disabilities prevent type 2 diabetes by allowing Medicare to implement the National Diabetes Prevention Program through community settings like the YMCA, local health departments, community health centers, and local churches -- reaching people with Medicare wherever they live. This program will also help give a new wellness tool to people who are at risk of becoming diabetic. For example, if a senior is found at risk for diabetes through his or her annual wellness visit, the doctor will be able to refer the patient to a National Diabetes Prevention Program in the area.

West Virginia has some of the highest diabetes rates in the nation. In 2009, approximately 174,000 adults -- 11 percent of West Virginia adults -- had diabetes. According to Centers for Disease Control estimates, as many as 50 percent of the nearly 380,000 people with Medicare in West Virginia may be at risk of developing diabetes. If current trends continue, one in three children born in West Virginia after the year 2000 will develop diabetes within his or her lifetime.

The reasons for expanding the National Diabetes Prevention Program to Medicare are clear:

It improves health. The program has already successfully reduced the onset of type 2 diabetes in at-risk participants by 58 percent overall and 71 percent in adults over 60 years old. Diabetes is a lifelong chronic illness that can cause severe complications including heart and kidney disease, stroke, blindness, and amputations. Expanding this effective program to Medicare enrollees is a cost-effective way to improve the quality of care and help them steer clear of diabetes and its complications.

It saves money. Diabetes is one of the most costly and burdensome diseases on our health care system. The National Diabetes Prevention Program costs less than $500 per person to deliver, compared to the estimated $15,000 per year spent on each Medicare beneficiary with diabetes. According to the Urban Institute, implementing the program nationally could save $191 billion over the next ten years, with 75 percent of the savings going to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It creates jobs. The program will bring diabetes trainers to more communities nationwide. West Virginia has already received funding for the National Diabetes Prevention Program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which will allow the state to train at least 100 community health workers to help disseminate the program in the state over the next five years.

Rockefeller added, "There is much at stake in our fight against diabetes, and we should give West Virginians and all Americans every opportunity to live long, healthy lives. It's up to us to build a healthier West Virginia and this bill is an important step in that direction."

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