Diabetes now accounts for nearly a quarter of all hospital spending in the US – about $83 billion a year in hospital fees. The report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was released in August, but I just came across it today, and the details are staggering. The vast majority – 95% – of all diabetes cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is nearly always caused by poor diet and/or a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, 70% of hospital stays for diabetics are paid for by government health insurance: 60% by Medicare and 10% by Medicaid.
Exploding health care costs are a concern for most Americans these days, and we all see our health insurance premiums rising steadily, year after year. Health care reform is still being fiercely debated. Health insurers are struggling to hold onto their relatively slim profit margins while being squeezed by more government regulations and increasing claims expenses. And yet we continue to spend billions of dollars every year to treat preventable health conditions.
Over the last several years, various cities and states have worked to shape public policy towards healthier lifestyles, including the smoking ban Colorado enacted for public places in 2007. Invariably, when governments try to impose healthier standards, some people cry foul, saying that the public should be free to make their own decisions. But how much longer can we bear the burden of the ever-increasing health care costs that are associated with lifestyle choices?