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Medicare and Diabetes Prevention

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Experts have long believed that health care costs could be reduced if the focus could be switched from treating a disease to preventing people from getting the disease. Figuring out what prevention programs work and how to pay for them has proven difficult.

That might be changing soon as the Washington Post reports in "Medicare could soon pay for services to keep diabetes from developing."

A five-year pilot program was conducted at YMCAs throughout the U.S. designed to help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The program enrolled people who were considered pre-diabetic. That is people with elevated blood sugar levels.

At a cost of $11.8 million the program showed that elderly people could lose weight with counseling and support for healthy eating and exercise. The average participant lost 5% of their body weight.

If the program is approved, it will be the first prevention program paid for by Medicare.

The program would save Medicare money overall, but it is not clear how the program would initially be paid for or administered. It is likely to be sometime before Medicare beneficiaries are covered for the program, but an initial explanation of how the system will work could come as early as this summer.

If the program proves successful when applied generally and not just in a pilot program, then it could pave the way for Medicare to cover the costs for other disease prevention programs in the future.

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