Diabetes: As Costly As War

Last week, results of an ADA-commissioned study were announced indicating that uncontrolled diabetes is costing this country $174 billion a year. That makes it as costly as war (the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism combined), and more expensive than repairing our worst natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina. I am still trying to get my head around this information.

The ADA actually says this estimate is probably an understatement, because “it omits the social cost of intangibles such as pain and suffering, care provided by non-paid caregivers, excess medical costs associated with undiagnosed diabetes, and diabetes-attributed costs for health care expenditures.” Also not included are health care system administrative costs, over-the-counter medications, clinician training programs, and research and infrastructure development. Yikes!

At this rate, diabetes “will ruin a generation of Americans,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, quoted in USA Today. Have a look at the ADA ad campaign around these shocking revelations:


You can also get an instant figure on how much money diabetes is costing your state or Congressional district using this quick online DIABETES COST CALCULATOR.

I know all of this is meant to jar this country’s leadership into action. But as an “out of the closet” PWD, here’s what I’m thinking: It feels like this could cause quite a wave of resentment among those taxpayers not so in-the-know about diabetes, ie. the genetic factors and the difference in Types of diabetes. Will many now have good reason to sneer at anyone afflicted by this disease and think: you people are draining the system?

The comments on the USA Today article are pretty interesting. Some people did not take kindly to the comparison of this chronic illness with war. Some complained that “the village idiot (still) won’t allow stem cell therapy.” And get this: one brash commenter notes that “if the taxpayers are paying for things, we can set conditions on funding. I think you should have to present an ID whenever buying food. Your data will be referenced and a computer will tell you what foods you are allowed to purchase or consume.” That sounds awfully punitive and invasive to me.

Instead, I like the thinking of a fellow diabetes blogger (age 23, Type 1), who writes: “What would happen if that amount of money would be given to researchers who are searching for a cure or provided to educators in order for people to have a true understanding of what living with diabetes means, how they can prevent Type 2 diabetes, etc?”

Now that’s using your expensive diabetic head.


16 Responses

  1. M
    M January 28, 2008 at 5:17 am | | Reply

    “wave of resentment” was exactly what I thought when I saw that. I hope it doesn’t happen that way… but I’m sure at least some people will think that way :(

    I also hope it doesn’t make people with diabetes feel guilty.

  2. Kendra
    Kendra January 28, 2008 at 6:00 am | | Reply

    The wave of resentment is already here – or at least I’ve already experienced it firsthand, when a classmate at my university told me he would rather see folks with chronic diseases “wiped out of the gene pool” than provide funds to research the diseases. All I could do was wish him the best of luck and hope that he or his loved ones never had to deal with a chronic diagnosis. He was “in the know” enough to realize that my diabetes (Type I) was somewhat like a random act of violence committed by my genetics and my environment, but he didn’t give a damn about that, or me especially, at all. I wasn’t surprised!

  3. Amylia
    Amylia January 28, 2008 at 7:06 am | | Reply

    WOW! I feel guilty enough as a diabetic, and there’s really no place for that. I don’t like that comparison AT ALL! a wave of resentment among those taxpayers not so in-the-know about diabetes, ie. the genetic factors and the difference in Types of diabetes is EXACTLY what I fear. There’s enough resentment, confusion, guilt and trouble. Why stir the pot?

  4. Mandy
    Mandy January 28, 2008 at 7:56 am | | Reply

    Sad to say, but while I agree that it would be a huge gain to put the money toward finding a cure, it will never happen. There are just too many big businesses in the business of treatment, drugs and supplies geared towards diabetes. Unfortunately, it has become a huge area of wealth and prosperity for them, and I’m sure they are the ones lobbying the government. Call me a cynic, but a lot of people don’t mind the cost, because they are the ones being paid.

  5. carol
    carol January 28, 2008 at 9:55 am | | Reply

    Great, nice factoids, now what are we going to DO about it? This reminds me of some of those pointless studies that prove things that are just common sense.

  6. Kyle
    Kyle January 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm | | Reply

    I think that it is interesting that the figure was for “uncontrolled diabetes”, not the cost of “controlling diabetes”. Perhaps it would beneficial for the advertising, to include the cost of controlling diabetes, so that it would be possible to see the positive influence (in monetary terms) controlling this disease has.

  7. Linda B.
    Linda B. January 28, 2008 at 12:26 pm | | Reply

    Until everyone in the business of doing business to make a profit changes their mindset, It will not change. Come on there are people who do not want to pay taxes for childrens education because they do not have children in school or there kids are all grown and out working so why should I pay for someone elses kids to learn. Most Americans and people in general never seem to move past the cost of something. The reality is whether Its taxes for education or taxes for research no one wants to pay for it but we all are guilty of screaming out to the government and whoever else will listen when nothing is being done about it.Nowadays its all about the money. the more the better. funding gets cut for services every year, for research, for city improvements, state improvements and we just let it go on and on. can you imgine how much we could accomplish if the American people as a whole stood up and said no more pork projects. Lets take that money given to build a teapot museum and the money that a certain Congressman (sorry, I do not recall his name) works into bills to have buildings in his home state named after him and use it for the things that really matter. Like oh I don’t know, levee repairs, bridge maintenance,Research funding, our childrens educations, they are aour future, the homeless the hungry, just to name a few. Millions of dollars are allocated evry year for non essential projects that no one really notices or cares about. The money for the teapot museum could have benefitted Autism research, or education programs or given to a scientist as part of the funding they need to research and develop new treatments and cures for diseases like ours and all the others. education programs to better equip people with chronic disease and smarter ways to take care of themselves. But instead its all about money and who can be paid off to vote the way big pharma and oil companies among a few want them too. maybe we all would have a little more faith in our government if the politicians took the time to see what is really happening to their constituents everyday. its time for them to come down off the Hill and live with a person who has to take 50 pills a day to fight HIV, the people who have to make the choice every month whether to pay a bill or buy medication or food that month. I used to have faith in our system to take care of us, but, as I grew up in the 70′s and 80′s till now all I’ve seen is the politicians and the people who could make differences in our country lining their pockets and feeding us lies about alot of things.I will not go so far as to say money is the root of all evil, but the path their seems to paved in greenbacks. The ADA numbers will continue to go up the cost will continue to go up and until people can see how we are damaging our future, the ignorance will grow the misinformation will continue and another teapot museum will be funded.

  8. Allison
    Allison January 28, 2008 at 1:38 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for linking to me!

  9. Doug MacLeod
    Doug MacLeod January 28, 2008 at 8:46 pm | | Reply

    I can only agree with poster #3 (Amylia); I have come to realize that I am a financial drain to my family, and part of the decision not to have kids involved guilt about (potential) genetics. If I didn’t have medical insurance, my existence would be tenuous. Interruption (i.e. natural disaster) in getting supplies and/or medical care could be a disaster on a personal level.

    The ADA ad is both eye-catching and provocative, but I for one don’t want to be reminded about how I require so much medical intervention to stay alive. And the ad doesn’t seem to make any mention of the $147 billion being from uncontrolled diabetes.

    Shame on the sensationalism!

  10. CALpumper
    CALpumper January 28, 2008 at 9:54 pm | | Reply

    Ah yes, money. Ah yes, the ADA. Ah yes, America.

    After doing some research, unfortunately online, and realizing my best bet (sigh) was via the NIH, http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/#scope
    a report in 2002 states that Diabetes cost this country $132 billion. About 15 million diagnosed in 2005.

    So an epidemic is when a disease affects 20 million (reported/documented) people and it is cause for action when it costs the country $147 billion?

    After scanning the ADA’s latest cost analysis report http://care.diabetesjournals.org/misc/econcosts.pdf
    the main stats are based on Type 2 Diabetes, older age, hospital visits etc etc. Type 1 was in the reference area on pg 17 of a 20 page report.

    Stats for Type 1? About a million in the US. I found that on “some site”. And that is really about it. Many sites explain Type 1 very well. Some even offer treatment options and research. The cost (treatment, supplies, visits)? No clue. Anyone?

    The Diabetes “epidemic” is still being lumped in mass media, there are many forms of this disease and lumping it is causing damage in so many ways.

    Hmmmm, 20 million….1 million? Hmmmm, 5 years ago $132 billion, now $147?

    All about the numbers and who profits from it. And well, we are just people with a chronic illness, jeez, well the heck with us huh, because you know, we asked for this….needing a vital hormone to sustain life, needing a glucose monitor and those darn $1 each test strips, oh and counting those carbs! Ugh! Who wants to think that much everyday?! Remember, most people don’t. They don’t because they have no “reason” to. We do….we want and can live a great life! When will people get that?!?!?!

  11. Lauren
    Lauren January 28, 2008 at 10:40 pm | | Reply

    Before my diagnosis, one of my scariest symptoms was blurred vision. As a premed student I immediately thought of optic neuritis (one of the first signs of MS), a brain tumor, and other horrible maladies. When I was diagnosed with type 1, part of me was relieved the problem was something I could control. Of course, in those first days I had no idea just how much effort “good control” requires, despite growing up with a type 1 sibling. The amount of daily energy we expend to stay in control is something that people aren’t aware of.

    Keeping BGs in check is a 24/7 job. There is a serious lack of understanding about this. I’m immersed in the medical field, yet most people I interact with on a daily basis think my disease amounts to “you can’t eat dessert.” We absolutely need more to spread awareness about the two types (including the fact that type 2 also has genetic components and can’t be blamed solely on lifestyle). We should not EVER feel guilty for a disease we didn’t ask for. Besides, I am of the opinion that most type 1′s are healthier and better nourished than the average American. We think about what we eat, way more than we’d probably like to!

  12. Lauren
    Lauren January 28, 2008 at 10:44 pm | | Reply

    Also, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I would also like to see the type 1 gene disappear in generations to come. For my part, I’d rather adopt and be a parent to a child who is already here on earth than play the genetic lottery.

  13. Kendra
    Kendra January 29, 2008 at 12:36 pm | | Reply

    How would you propose to do that, Lauren? Sterilize all Type I diabetics? (Of course not, I know that’s not what you meant – but that’s where my heart angrily and sadly leaps, because I know that’s an answer my classmate would have given.) I am not as noble as you, I fear, because I am 20 weeks pregnant as I type.

    I have no family history of autoimmune diseases. I guess the family history is going to start with me . . . but I still have a hard time living in fear that my child will develop my disease. There are worse fates than diabetes – and one of them, I think, is living in a world where the privilege of conceiving and carrying a child is only extended to those considered genetically “okay” or “normal” or “above par” or whatever you want to call it. I don’t believe such individuals exist. I do believe there are ticking bombs inside all of us; some of us are just lucky to never have them go off.

  14. Melitta
    Melitta January 29, 2008 at 1:28 pm | | Reply

    The “1 million” Type 1 diabetics in the U.S.A. is SO old. Rapid onset Type 1 diabetes represents about 5 to 10% of ALL diabetes (and 57% of those are diagnosed at age 20 or greater, i.e., adults, according to the CDC in Diabetes in America, 1995). THEN, there are all those pesky slow onset Type 1 diabetics (aka LADA) who represent 10 to 15% of ALL diabetes (Type 1 Diabetes in Adults, 2007). That makes 15 to 25% of ALL diabetes is Type 1 diabetes. That’s a lot more than 1 million in the U.S. if you do the math.

    Regarding not passing on the genes, lots of women with GDM are antibody positive and go on to have full-blown Type 1.

  15. jadesr
    jadesr January 31, 2008 at 1:57 pm | | Reply

    So, the ADA spends the money I send them on ads to make people hate me? Great.

  16. t1d
    t1d April 18, 2008 at 12:02 pm | | Reply

    Amputations, blindness, and other organ failures also sound like the casualties of war.
    PS when are they going to sell c-peptide to the people who can’t manufacture it themselves? It prevents those side effects.

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