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home : perspectives : congressman filemon vela December 17, 2014

3/6/2013 2:51:00 PM
Reps. Filemon Vela and Susan Davis introduce bill to help prevent diabetes in seniors

WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX) and Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced legislation to prevent diabetes in seniors and rein in health care costs. The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act (H.R. 962) would extend the proven benefits of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to seniors under Medicare.

"With healthcare costs continuing to grow, diabetes is one of them most dangerous and expensive chronic diseases facing our nation. In Texas' Rio Grande Valley alone, the rate of diabetes is more than three times the national average," said Congressman Vela. "The National Diabetes Prevention Program is proven and effective public-private partnership that will help seniors get the treatment and care they need through Medicare. Preventing diabetes in this high-risk population will undoubtedly save lives and potentially save the federal government billions of dollars."

"With thoughtful, responsible action we can get growing healthcare costs under control and make our country healthier at the same time," said Davis. "In fact with targeted prevention initiatives, like the National Diabetes Prevention Program, Congress can achieve cost savings by preventing diabetes and its complications, meeting our goals of improving health and reining in spending."

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), found patients with prediabetes can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent through participation in a lifestyle intervention program. For seniors over age 60 the trial was even more effective, reducing risk by 71 percent.

Unfortunately, this successful program is not currently available to most seniors who could benefit. The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act of 2013 will extend the proven benefits of the National Diabetes Prevention Program to Medicare beneficiaries by making the community-based intervention available as a Medicare benefit.

Dr. Rose Zavaletta Gowan, physician and City Commissioner of Brownsville said, "In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as many as 1 in 3 are diabetic with 20% completely unaware of their condition. In an area as plagued by poverty as we are, diabetes poses an enormous health and economic challenge. The Diabetes Prevention Program will offer critical resources to seniors that will save lives and prevent the increase of diabetes throughout our community."

Currently, 50 percent of all seniors in the U.S. have prediabetes and are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. It has been estimated that without action, Medicare spending on diabetes will grow to $2 trillion in 2020.

The Urban Institute estimated that expanding this program will actually save up to $191 billion to the US health care system, with most of the savings being achieved by federal health programs, like Medicare.

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