UHG: Diabetes to Cost $3.35 Trillion This Decade

A new report indicates that health care spending related to diabetes may skyrocket during the next decade-totaling $3.35 trillion-but certain measures could significantly reduce costs.

In less than a decade, more than half of Americans could have diabetes or prediabetes, according to data released Tuesday by Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, Inc.'s Center for Health Reform and Modernization.

The report, titled “The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead,” states that health care spending related to diabetes will cost about $194 billion this year. By 2020, however, it will account for about 10 percent of all health care spending-and its annual cost will skyrocket to roughly $500 billion.

That means that if current trends continue, diabetes-related spending will total about $3.35 trillion over the next decade.

UnitedHealth Group's report recommends a number of solutions to improve health and life expectancy-and it says that its measures could help save up to $250 billion in the next 10 years.

“Our new research shows there is a diabetes time bomb ticking in America, but fortunately there are practical steps that can be taken now to defuse it,” Simon Stevens, executive vice president for UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement.

Stevens said that a “concerted, national, multi-stakeholder action” will be required to kick the current trend, and health plans will need to “engage consumers in new ways.”

The report focuses on combating obesity. For instance, if health initiatives were adopted to control obesity, the number of people who would develop prediabetes or diabetes would drop by about 10 million.

Community-based intervention programs, such as an existing UnitedHealth Group program that has partnered with the YMCA, could reduce the number of people with prediabetes who eventually develop diabetes by about 3 million.

The report also encourages diabetes control through improved medication, as well as a large-scale adoption of public-private partnerships focused on developing infrastructure that would allow existing programs to expand nationally.

UnitedHealth Group is Minnesota's largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $87.1 billion in 2009.