By Christy Craig, Intern, Care4Carolina
The diabetes epidemic is serious, take these sobering statistics. In 2020, it was projected that 12.5% of the state’s population, or 1.3 million North Carolinians, had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, it was estimated that more than 3.5 million North Carolinians had prediabetes. While shockingly high, these numbers likely underestimate the actual number of people with diabetes and prediabetes. As you may already guess, having a diagnosis is extremely important because diabetes requires regular treatment to control blood sugar levels. Left untreated, people with diabetes could suffer from serious complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and even death. In 2020, North Carolina ranked 7th in the nation for diabetes-related deaths. Having access to affordable, quality health care is a must for those with diabetes and prediabetes.
A big part of ensuring that all North Carolinians with diabetes have access to affordable, quality care is closing the health insurance coverage gap. Studies show that states that closed their coverage gaps had increases in self-reported diabetes management, health status, and access to health care. Further, despite the rising cost of insulin, one study found that people with diabetes were more likely to be able to afford their medication in states that closed the coverage gap. Likewise, another study found that people who gained insurance were less likely to skip their medication due to cost. Thus, closing the coverage gap could help people with diabetes afford their medication and prevent the severe health complications mentioned earlier.
So, we know that closing the coverage gap has the potential to improve diabetes management and reduce complications associated with diabetes, but what about preventing diabetes before it even happens? There is evidence that closing the coverage gap leads to an increase in diabetes screening, which can help ensure that people have a diagnosis and can either prevent their prediabetes from becoming diabetes or effectively manage their diabetes.
In addition to the individual’s cost of the disease, diabetes cost North Carolina’s private and public sectors almost $11 billion. As one example, diabetes is associated with a higher rate of hospital admissions. Insuring more North Carolinians through closing the coverage gap, could increase diagnosis rates and improve diabetes management, then it follows that people may be less likely to end up in the hospital as a result of unmanaged diabetes. Unfortunately, North Carolina’s failure to close the health insurance coverage gap leaves many North Carolinians undiagnosed and/or less equipped to manage their diabetes. Further, if the state doesn’t take steps to address the diabetes epidemic, diabetes could cost the state more than $17 billion per year by 2025. Neither the people of North Carolina, nor the economy, can afford to wait any longer.