Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Need for Diabetes Care

The Need for Diabetes Care

It's demanding and it never goes away. For diabetes patients, managing good health is a multi-faceted daily regimen. Testing blood glucose levels, eating the right foods and getting exercise are critical. In fact, our research finds diabetes patients may spend more than three hours per day to take care their health needs.

New treatments are empowering people with diabetes to self manage their condition like never before. Unfortunately, too many health insurance plans in Ohio have not kept pace.

Health plans in Ohio are not required to offer comprehensive diabetes coverage. Ohio is just one of four states that have not passed legislation requiring such coverage. Ohio's fragmented system leaves too many patients with inadequate supplies, equipment and education.

In Washington County and throughout southeastern Ohio, diabetes is especially prevalent. As a family doctor, and a diabetologist at Ohio University, I personally deal with diabetes patients who skip blood glucose tests or go without vital supplies and education.

In Ohio, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death. About 9 percent of Ohioans have diabetes. In southeast Ohio, the situation is worse. The Ohio University Center for Appalachian and Rural Health Research found that approximately 16 percent of area residents have diabetes.

While I cannot promise a cure for diabetes, because there is none, I can tell you about a potential solution to our state's inconsistent approach to diabetes coverage.

State Senator Jimmy Stewart has the opportunity to support House Bill 81, which requires new health care policies, contracts and plans to provide insurance benefits for equipment, supplies and medication for the diagnosis, treatment and management of diabetes. The bill also enables patients to obtain self-management education.

Legislation like House Bill 81 is already law in 46 other states. Ohio has been trying for 15 years to pass this legislation.

Even though prominent organizations such my colleagues at the Ohio Osteopathic Association, the Cleveland Clinic, the Ohio State Medical Association, the Ohio Pharmacists Association, the Ohio Optometric Association, and many other groups support House Bill 81, a few business interests are opposed.

Concerned with the idea of a "mandate" for comprehensive coverage, some feel House Bill 81 burdens business. It doesn't. In fact, this bill provides the business community and insurance industry with the most flexibility of any diabetes coverage law. For example, it allows a business owner who already provides comprehensive coverage using a pharmacy rider, durable medical equipment policy, or overall pharmaceutical coverage rider, to continue to do so. In addition, the bill provides for "actuarial assurance" that it will not increase overall insurance premiums by more than 1 percent.

As Senator Stewart and his colleagues decide on House Bill 81, I ask them to consider this: opponents to its passage have never once provided data from the 46 other states with this law that show where premiums have risen or otherwise where costs have gone up.

It's time to pass House Bill 81 in Ohio. Too many people have diabetes to ignore the potential good that can come from better access to care.

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