Invisible Time

The Cost of Ignoring Obesity in an Epidemic of Diabetes

Change Over Time in Barriers to Obesity CareA long history of ignoring obesity has racked up considerable costs for chronic diseases. This history was presented Friday in a symposium sponsored by the American Journal of Managed Care at their annual conference on patient centered diabetes care.

Janine Kyrillos of Thomas Jefferson University described the considerable impact of AMA recognizing in 2013 that obesity is a chronic disease. She provided an excellent review of the problems created by bias and discrimination in healthcare against people with obesity.

ConscienHealth founder Ted Kyle presented a broader view of the impact that access to care for obesity can have. Kyle found reasons for encouragement in coverage of evidence-based care for obesity. At one end of the spectrum, health plans are innovating to provide better access to intensive behavioral programs. Most notable is the decision by Medicare to start paying for delivery of the Diabetes Prevention Program in community settings by organizations like the YMCA. They’re not doing it for reasons of charity. They’re doing it because they have finally figured out that it costs them an extra $2,650 per member when they don’t do it. At the other end of the spectrum, coverage of bariatric surgery is steadily improving as well.

When surgery puts type 2 diabetes into remission, the cost savings can be impressive.

The symposium concluded with a panel discussion on overcoming barriers to obesity care. Robert Gabay, Chief Medical Officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center, moderated the panel. Anne Schmidt of Alabama Blue Cross Blue Shield and Fatima Cody Stanford of the Massachusetts General Weight Center joined Kyle on the panel. Schmidt noted that her organization was making changes to its health plans because of the impact of obesity in Alabama.

Stanford brought a dose of reality from her clinical work. While acknowledging real progress in access to care, she cautioned that the healthcare system is still mostly blaming patients and ignoring obesity.

Meanwhile, the epidemic of diabetes that results is growing at an astonishing rate. It’s destined to run up costs well beyond the quarter trillion dollars that it already imposes.

Click here for Kyle’s presentation and here for more on the growing epidemic of diabetes.

Invisible Time, photograph © paolobarzman / flickr

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April 9, 2016

One Response to “The Cost of Ignoring Obesity in an Epidemic of Diabetes”

  1. April 12, 2016 at 11:10 am, Allen Browne said:

    Go Dr. Cody-Stanford!

    Go Ted!

    In spite of right and wrong and of data and reason, economics will do the driving. I guess we need more economists.