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It Costs $10K More To Treat People With Diabetes, Insurers Say

Written by: | readers@forbes.com | Dated: Friday, May 8th, 2015

It now costs $10,000 or more per person annually to treat someone with diabetes than someone who doesn’t have the chronic disease, according to a new analysis of large insurance company claims data.

The Health Care Cost Institute, a Washington-based group backed by some of the nation’s largest insurance companies including UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Humana (HUM) Aetna (AET) and Kaiser Permanente says that spending per capita on health care for people with diabetes was just shy of $15,000 in 2013. By comparison, $4,305 was spent in the same year on people who didn’t have diabetes, according to claims information for people under age 65 with employer-sponsored insurance from data provided to the group.

The report is the latest push from insurance companies to use their vast claims data to point out areas of rising costs and the reasons behind it. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which represents Anthem (ANTM) and myriad other Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, has been issuing more reports of late as well showing cost differences for treatments and surgeries and how they vary across the country. (See related gallery from Blue Cross on knee and hip surgery costs.)

In the institute’s diabetes report, the insurers and their data point to expensive new brand name insulin and other prescription medications as a key driver in the diabetes costs per capita that jumped 4 percent in 2013 to $14,999 from $14,404 in 2012. Costs for people without diabetes rose to $4,305 in 2013 from $4,146.

“We’re seeing spending on anti-diabetic medication and insulin specifically and branded versions of those products go up,” Amanda Frost, researcher for the institute, said in an interview. “We looked at 2009 to 2013 spending, but it was really 2011, 2012 and 2013 that spending increased for drugs.”

Across the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, manufacturers have been developing new insulin as well as new tests and devices for diabetics who have to regularly measure their blood glucose levels. Though such products can be more convenient for patients, they can also add to costs.

Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Kaiser Permanente figures on diabetes costs

But patients with diabetes are sharing more of the cost burden, the report indicates, given the trend of insurers and employers to push more costs onto their workers.  For those with diabetes, out-of-pocket costs were $1,922 in 2013 compared to $738 for those without diabetes. Such out-of-pocket costs have been rising four to five percent annually since 2011.

Wondering how the Affordable Care Act impacts your prescription costs and your health care? The Forbes eBook Inside Obamacare: The Fix For America’s Ailing Health Care System answers that question and more. Available now at Amazon andApple.

Source: Forbes

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