Lawmakers introduce legislation to expand access to key diabetes prevention program

Apr 22, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tom Rice (R-SC) introduced bipartisan legislation today to make a key federal diabetes-prevention program more accessible to more Americans.

The legislation – known as the PREVENT DIABETES Act – would expand access to the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program by making it available online. Under current law, the program is only available to qualifying Medicare beneficiaries who attend in-person classes, leaving many seniors and rural Americans who could otherwise benefit from the program unable to utilize it.

“More than 90 million people in this country have either diabetes or pre-diabetes,” said DeGette, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. “Experts agree: The best way to treat Type 2 diabetes is to prevent it from developing in the first place. This legislation will help make this important preventive care program available to more Americans - especially those living in more rural areas of the country who aren’t able to attend the in-person classes.”

The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program is a 2-year program designed to teach patients with prediabetes how to live a healthier lifestyle to reduce their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.

The program, which is available at no cost to qualifying Medicare beneficiaries, currently requires participants to attend 16 in-person, classroom-style sessions. During these sessions, participants are taught ways to improve their diets, increase their physical exercise and make better overall health decisions to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services temporarily suspended the in-person requirement early in 2020 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and made them available online for the duration of the pandemic.

If approved, the legislation DeGette and Rice introduced today, along with Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and G.K. Butterfield (D-CA), would require Medicare to make that change permanent and offer the classes both online and in-person going forward to help expand its reach even after the pandemic ends.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 10 American adults currently has diabetes – including more than 400,000 people in DeGette’s home state of Colorado. That number is even higher among Americans age 65 and over. According to the American Diabetes Association, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 4 seniors in the U.S. has the disease.

The rising number of patients with diabetes in the U.S. is taking a toll on efforts to reign in health care costs. Approximately $1 out of every $4 spent on healthcare in the U.S. – and $1 out of every $3 spent by Medicare – is spent treating people with diabetes.

In an effort to try to prevent more Americans from developing the disease, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program in 2018.

Studies have shown that participants of similar behavioral-change programs were able to prevent or delay the development of Type 2 diabetes for at least 15 years.

An early review of the Medicare-run program found that it, like other similarly designed programs, has been successful in helping participants lose weight and reduce their overall chances of developing the disease.

In fact, participants of the Medicare program have reported an average weight loss of 5%. Medicare, meanwhile, has reportedly saved an average of $2,650 in reduced medical costs per beneficiary who has participated in the program.

The legislation is supported by ACT | The App Association, Alliance for Connected Care, American Diabetes Association, American Telemedicine Association, Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists, Endocrine Society, Children with Diabetes, Chronic Disease Coalition, Connected Health Initiative, HealthyWomen, Noom, Omada Health, Patient & Provider Advocates for Telehealth, Teladoc Health, and WW.

A copy of the legislation is available here.