Diabetes Care: The Lifetime Cost of Diabetes and Its Implications for Diabetes Prevention

OBJECTIVE To assess the cost implications of diabetes prevention, it is important to know the lifetime medical cost of people with diabetes relative to those without. We derived such estimates using data representative of the U.S. national population.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We aggregated annual medical expenditures from the age of diabetes diagnosis to death to determine lifetime medical expenditure. Annual medical expenditures were estimated by sex, age at diagnosis, and diabetes duration using data from 2006–2009 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, which were linked to data from 2005–2008 National Health Interview Surveys. We combined survival data from published studies with the estimated annual expenditures to calculate lifetime spending. We then compared lifetime spending for people with diabetes with that for those without diabetes. Future spending was discounted at 3% annually.

RESULTS The discounted excess lifetime medical spending for people with diabetes was $124,600 ($211,400 if not discounted), $91,200 ($135,600), $53,800 ($70,200), and $35,900 ($43,900) when diagnosed with diabetes at ages 40, 50, 60, and 65 years, respectively. Younger age at diagnosis and female sex were associated with higher levels of lifetime excess medical spending attributed to diabetes.

CONCLUSIONS

Having diabetes is associated with substantially higher lifetime medical expenditures despite being associated with reduced life expectancy.

If prevention costs can be kept sufficiently low, diabetes prevention may lead to a reduction in long-term medical costs.

Xiaohui Zhuo, Ping Zhang, Lawrence Barker, Ann Albright, Theodore J. Thompson and Edward Gregg

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