Get Connected
  • facebook
  • twitter

Bill targets diabetes prevention

By Candace Nelson

Sen. Jay Rockefeller is reintroducing a bill to make preventative diabetic care available among Medicare beneficiaries.

The bill was previously introduced on July 31, in the 112th session of Congress, but failed.

If passed, it would provide Medicare beneficiaries with access to the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which is authorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Diabetes Prevention Program is a yearlong program that focuses on healthy eating, physical activity and counseling to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. In previous findings, the program had a success rate of more than 70 percent among those age 60 or older.

"Reducing diabetes in West Virginia is imperative," Rockefeller said in a statement. "This bill would use a proven diabetes prevention program to help reduce the prevalence of this disease, and in many cases, help West Virginians avoid it altogether. It also saves billions of dollars as we try to reduce the federal deficit, and it creates jobs by training more workers in the state to implement this program."

If a doctor says a Medicare patient is pre-diabetic, then Medicare would reimburse the diabetes prevention program under the bill, Rockefeller press secretary Andrew Beckner said.

Anyone can participate, but the greatest impact is seen in seniors.

The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act will focus on preventing type 2 diabetes in seniors and individuals with disabilities by allowing Medicare to put in place the National Diabetes Prevention Program through partnerships with community and health care organizations.

The CDC estimates that 79 million Americans 20 years or older had pre-diabetes in 2010, or 1 in 3 adults.

Nationwide, 93 percent of people with pre-diabetes don't know they have it, said Dr. Ann Albright, director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the CDC. Albright also participated in a discussion last fall to talk about the state's diabetes prevention efforts with the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

About 174,000 adults, or 11 percent, in West Virginia had diabetes in 2009. Of the nearly 380,000 people with Medicare in West Virginia, 50 percent may be at risk for developing diabetes.

"It is clear from the diabetes prevention program that weight loss is a driving factor in preventing diabetes. But it's not just weight loss. We have to improve the environment and have community changes," Albright said.

"The program has demonstrated that 58 percent of people who have high risk, though, can reduce risk through structured lifestyle changes. We have to focus on preventing type 2 diabetes - the only kind we can prevent right now."

The program includes a core one-hour session for at least 16 weeks, but no more than 24 weeks. In addition, there are monthly follow-up group sessions that give participants the chance to talk through strategy and offer a support system.

A coach, who can be a health care professional or community-trained individual, helps facilitate interaction and identifies barriers for individuals.

The National Diabetes Prevention Program started out as a study more than a decade ago. It included three different groups - lifestyle, drug and placebo.

The lifestyle portion saw a 58 percent reduction in diabetes, Albright said. A decade later, there was still a 34 percent cumulative incidence in reduction. The study expanded to large-scale implementation and now partners with 42 states.

For more information, visit

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at



User Comments