Diabetes Complications Are Costly in Older Adults
Diabetes is the most expensive chronic disease in the United States. This study found that complications associated with diabetes are costly and vary by condition among Medicare beneficiaries 65 or older with type 2 diabetes.
In 2017, the total cost of all diabetes complications was over $37 billion in this population. The most common complications were kidney disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke. These three conditions accounted for nearly half of the total cost.
What did this study examine?
Researchers looked at the annual cost of diabetes complications among older adults with type 2 diabetes. They estimated the annual per-person cost of each complication from 2006 to 2017 and the total cost of all diabetes complications in 2017 by using data from Medicare, a national health insurance program primarily for people 65 or older.
What’s important about this study?
Policy makers, public health professionals, and researchers can use the findings to evaluate and support health programs that help prevent, delay, or manage diabetes complications.
What were the results?
- At the national level, the total cost of diabetes complications was over $37 billion in 2017. The most common complications were kidney disease, congestive heart failure (a chronic condition that affects the pumping power of the heart muscles), and stroke. These three conditions accounted for nearly 50% of the total cost.
- Annual per-person costs varied by diabetes complication. The most expensive complication was when an older adult had kidney failure and needed surgery to replace one of their kidneys with a healthy kidney from a donor. Although this condition was rare, the cost of this treatment could be $80,000.
- A complication typically costs more when it is more advanced. For example, the average cost of treating kidney disease is about $9,500 in the first year and then $1,800 a year in subsequent years. Once the disease progresses to kidney failure, treatment can cost more than $54,000.
What are the take-home messages?
- Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes complications could help slow the progression of diabetes complications, reducing medical costs.
- Kidney disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke are the most common complications among Medicare beneficiaries 65 or older with type 2 diabetes. These conditions accounted for almost half of the total cost of all diabetes complications in this population in 2017. Reducing the risk of these three conditions could lower economic costs for the US health care system and improve quality of life for older adults.