Education: Another Money-Saver

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Paying for diabetes care and supplies has always been tough for some people, and these days, reports abound of people going without doctor visits or needed medicines because they can’t afford them. In the May/June 2009 issue of Diabetes Self-Management magazine, we listed some organizations and programs that may be able to help defray those costs. But diabetes care is more than just drugs and supplies: Knowledge is important, too, and it turns out that learning how to manage diabetes can save you big bucks.

As reported in the January/February 2009 issue of the magazine, in a News & Notes item written by Joseph Gustaitis, more education about diabetes is associated with fewer hospitalizations down the road. Dr. Jessica M. Robbins, of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, along with a team of researchers, studied the association between different types of diabetes educational visits and the hospital admission rates and costs for over 18,000 people with diabetes. The people were followed for almost five years, during which time some of them attended a diabetes class, some had a visit with a nutritionist, and some had a health education visit.

When the results were in, it was determined that the hospitalization rate for people who had had at least one educational visit was 34% lower than for those people who had had none. And the cost savings were considerable: Having had any type of educational visit was associated with $11,571 less in hospital costs per person. All types of education were effective, but nutritionist visits were associated with the greatest reduction in hospitalizations and costs.

Where can you get diabetes education? Your primary health-care provider may be able to recommend a diabetes educator or diabetes education classes to you. If not, the American Association of Diabetes Educators has long been a resource for teaming up Certified Diabetes Educators with the people who need them.

Some Medicare beneficiaries may be able to take advantage of a relatively new program of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services called Every Diabetic Counts. Under the program, selected Medicare Quality Improvement Organizations are offering free diabetes management education and other supports. Doctors identify Medicare beneficiaries who are having problems managing their diabetes and refer them to a free training program in which they learn about such things as exercise, nutrition, weight loss, sticking to a medication regimen, stress management, and the importance of checking blood glucose daily.

The program is currently operating in Washington, DC, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But anyone who has diabetes and who is eligible for Medicare can call (877) 746-6465 to request a free informational packet, or send a written request to HCD International, Attention: Health Disparities QIOSC, 4390 Parliament Place, Suite A, Lanham, MD 20706-1808.

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