ADA Says Medicaid Cuts Proposed By Bush Administration Threaten The Lives of People Living with Diabetes

American Diabetes Association Disagrees with Bush Administration's Proposal, Sends Letter of Dissent to Energy & Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin

March 2003 The American Diabetes Association sent a letter on March 12th, to the Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Representative W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, to express reservations with proposed Medicaid reforms put forward by President George W. Bush. The Association believes legislation mirroring the administration's proposal would reduce Medicaid coverage for prescription drugs, equipment, supplies and services that are vital to millions of low-income Americans living with diabetes who are dependent upon the program.

In attempting to provide "flexibility" to states, the administration has proposed a restructuring of Medicaid that would give state Medicaid administrators the outright authority to end coverage for diabetes supplies, medications, equipment and services. The American Diabetes Association believes that the elimination of such coverage would be a disaster for the poor, near poor, disabled and poor children living with diabetes who depend on Medicaid for health care coverage.

Some state-run Medicaid programs are already eliminating coverage of necessary diabetes supplies, equipment and services because of severe budgetary constraints. The flexibility offered in the Presidents proposal might lead states to cut needed diabetes coverage further given the cost of preventive care for the disease.

"One of the greatest risks to people living with diabetes is the potential loss of guaranteed coverage for diabetes supplies and services provided by state-run Medicaid programs," said Francine Kaufman, M.D., President, American Diabetes Association and pediatric endocrinologist at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles. Dr. Kaufman continued, "The removal of Medicaid and related insurance protections for people with diabetes will turn the clock of diabetes care back a decade."

Dr. Kaufman continued, "The American Diabetes Association, along with the National Institutes of Health, just released a study demonstrating that diabetes costs America approximately $132 billion dollars each year. The same study found that one of every ten healthcare dollars spent in America is now spent on diabetes. If we deny low-income people with diabetes access to needed care under Medicaid, the amount spent on the disease will rise due to increased numbers of people living with uncontrolled diabetes."

"America will experience a dramatic rise in the number of people living with diabetes related complications like heart disease and stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputations if attempts to remove Medicaid benefit protections affecting people with diabetes are successful," said R. Stewart Perry, Chair of the American Diabetes Associations Advocacy Committee and author of the letter to Chairman Tauzin. Mr. Perry continued, "Attempts to cut back on services available to people with diabetes are fiscally unwise and inhumane."

The American Diabetes Association has long argued that insurance coverage of basic diabetes needs is a reasonable expectation of any form of health insurance that should be guaranteed by law. Studies and surveys document that patients find managing diabetes virtually impossible without affordable insurance coverage of diabetes supplies, services and equipment. This research also documents that patients who cannot afford diabetes supplies and services are more likely to stop taking medications, reduce or eliminate blood glucose monitoring and experience a higher risk of complications.

The American Diabetes Association is encouraging members of Congress to implement a diabetes waiver for the Medicaid program to help make diabetes care more affordable and manageable. Based loosely on the breast and cervical cancer waiver program, this effort would allow states to enroll uninsured poor Americans with diabetes in Medicaid programs to receive comprehensive diabetes benefits. The Association strongly believes that placing poor uninsured Americans with diabetes in Medicaid programs will reduce the incidence of diabetes complications, allow people to remain productive members of the workforce for a longer period of time, and reduce the fiscal burden of diabetes and its related complications on state and federal welfare and related safety net programs.

The American Diabetes Association encourages all concerned Americans to contact their elected officials including the President, their Governor, members of Congress, US Senators and statewide elected officials to inform them of the need to preserve the diabetes care provided by Medicaid.

The American Diabetes Association is the nation's leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. Our advocacy efforts include helping to combat discrimination against people with diabetes; advocating for the increase of federal diabetes research and programs; and improved access to, and quality of, healthcare for people with diabetes. The Association's mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

Founded in 1940, the American Diabetes Association provides services to hundreds of communities across the country. For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.

Take Action! If you would like to contact your regional lawmaker regarding these proposals and how they might affect you, then visit our "Take Action" page for information on how to contact your senators and representatives via email, phone, fax and postal mail.

Source: American Diabetes Association