Diabetes Costs Are High for Young People

CDC Study Shows Annual Medical Expenses for Young Diabetes Patients Is About $9,000

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

April 28, 2011 -- Young people who have diabetes face much higher medical bills than children and teenagers who do not have the disease, and much of the extra tab is due to prescription drugs and outpatient care, the CDC says.

A new CDC study says the annual medical expense for young people with diabetes totals about $9,061, vs. $1,468 for teens and kids without the disease.

The young people with the highest medical costs in the study were treated with insulin, which is typically used by patients with type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, and sometimes used in type 2 diabetes, which more commonly develops after childhood.

Patients with type 1 diabetes can't make insulin and thus must receive insulin treatment.

Some patients with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin to control their blood glucose levels and also are treated with insulin.

Insulin Treatment Raises Costs

In the study, children and teens age 19 or younger who received insulin treatment had average annual medical costs of $9,333. Those who did not receive insulin but did take oral medications to control blood glucose spent on average $5,683.

The study investigated medical costs for children and teenagers 19 or younger who were covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans in 2007. Estimates were based on claims data on nearly 50,000 young people, including 8,226 with diabetes.

"Young people with diabetes face medical costs that are six times higher than their peers without diabetes," the CDC's Ann Albright, PhD, RD, says in a news release. Albright is director of the CDC's division of diabetes translation. "Most youth with diabetes need insulin to survive, and the medical costs for young people on insulin were almost 65% higher than those who did not require insulin to treat their diabetes."

Most people with diabetes are adults. The CDC says medical costs for people with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than costs for those who do not have the disease.

Researchers say the difference in medical costs associated with diabetes may be greater for youths than for adults because of higher medication expenses, more visits to specialists, and medical equipment such as syringes to deliver insulin, as well as glucose testing strips.

The CDC says 92% of youths with diabetes are treated with insulin, compared to 26% of adults with the disease.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, which is believed to be caused by genetic and environmental factors, although the exact cause is unknown. It develops when the body's immune system prevents the pancreas from producing adequate insulin.

In type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity, older age, heredity, physical inactivity, and other factors, the body is unable to properly handle or produce insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is fairly uncommon in young people 10 to 19, though rates are higher in this age group than in younger children.

The report is published in the May issue of Diabetes Care.


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SOURCES: News release, CDC.Shrestha, S. Diabetes Care, vol 34: pp 1097-1101.

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