Three Senators Introduce Access to Diabetes Screening Services Act of 2003

March 2003 On March 11th, Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Susan Collins (R-ME) co-chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced important legislation aimed at stemming the tide of the epidemic of diabetes in the United States. Known as the Access to Diabetes Screening Services Act of 2003, the legislation would help get the epidemic of diabetes under control by allowing the Medicare program to cover laboratory diagnostic tests and other services which are used to screen for diabetes. Medicare is currently prohibited by federal law from providing these screening services.

"The need for this legislation cannot be overstated," said Francine Kaufman, M.D., President of the American Diabetes Association and endocrinologist at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. "With the rising prevalence of seniors who already have diabetes, and the staggering number of seniors who have it but remain undiagnosed, coverage of diabetes screenings under Medicare is an obvious and necessary option. Enactment of this legislation will help our nation begin to manage the direct costs of diabetes which doubled from $44 billion in 1997 to $91.8 billion in 2002. On behalf of the American Diabetes Association, I want to thank Senators Lincoln, Collins and Bingaman for introducing the Access to Diabetes Screening Services Act of 2003. I urge all members of the Senate to support this vital, life-saving legislation."

"Current law does not allow Medicare to be reimbursed for diabetes screening, even if a patient is displaying obvious risk factors such as obesity and a family history of the disease. This is the wrong approach," said Senator Lincoln. "Diabetes screening is much less costly than paying for untreated complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. We must change our focus to prevention and screening of chronic diseases, rather than paying for complications and letting our most vulnerable citizens suffer needlessly."

Senator Collins added, "Americans over the age of 65 are at the greatest risk of developing diabetes. Whether you are a senior citizen from a coastal community in Maine, rural New Mexico, a farming town in Arkansas, or a city on the West Coast, it is important to do everything possible to prevent diabetes or to detect it in the early stages with a simple laboratory test. This legislation will modernize Medicare for American seniors and their doctors by allowing the program to cover diabetes screenings; something that private health insurance programs cover for most Americans under age 65."

"We have the technology and the ability to save many lives with the adoption of this legislation," said Senator Bingaman. "It is good medical practice to screen for this deadly disease in our senior population when risk factors for the disease are evident, and it is the smart fiscal thing to do. I am proud to be part of this important effort that will give our seniors at risk for diabetes a better quality of life."

The American Diabetes Association is the nations 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 Associations mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Founded in 1940, the Association provides service 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 the Access to Diabetes Screening Services Act of 2003 and how it 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