Tags: big insurers | big approach | diabetes | Type 2 diabetes | proactive role | UnitedHealth group

Insurer Pitches Plan to Battle Diabetes

Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010 10:42 AM


All eyes are on a move by one of the country's largest health insurers to take a proactive role in keeping its clients well. Using a clinically proven program which helps overweight people lose 5 percent of their body weight and thereby cut their risk of Type 2 diabetes by more than half, UnitedHealth Group is joining hands with the venerable YMCA and Walgreens Pharmacy in an effort to slow the growth of one of the nation's most consequential and costly health problems.

According to the New York Times, UnitedHealth Group will today reveal plans to work with YMCA "lifestyle coaches" in seven cities spread across the United States. The coaches will help prediabetic people through 16-week programs that teach them the importance of exercise and healthful choices of food. The Y has already had success with such programs.

The UnitedHealth effort, which may perhaps be viewed as a result of the federal healthcare law mandating coverage of people without regard to the status of their health, will also endeavor to help people who are already diabetic. UnitedHealth will pay Walgreens pharmacists in the seven selected cities to provide counseling to diabetics in an effort to teach them how to better manage their conditions.

The seven cities are Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Tucson, Phoenix, and three cities in Ohio: Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton. In addition to the initial cities in the program, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also join in the effort by financing the Y programs in 10 more locations scattered around the country, which have yet to be announced.

UnitedHealth is helping the Y through financial aid, which it says is in the range of tens of millions of dollars, and also through the collection and tracking of data of those enrolled in the program. In a move sure to raise many eyebrows, UnitedHealth says it will mine existing data on its own members to pinpoint which of them may be prediabetic and then inform them about the program.

According to the CDC, almost 24 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition, experts estimate that one in four adults — an additional 60 million people — are believed to be prediabetic.

The cost of treating Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes is more than $200 billion every year. "This is an enormous problem," Dr. Ann Albright of the CDC told the New York Times. "Our data tells us it's getting worse."



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All eyes are on a move by one of the country's largest health insurers to take a proactive role in keeping its clients well.
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Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010 10:42 AM
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