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Hausner, Brewer and Bohlen: Congress Must Renew Special Diabetes Program

Recently, many Americans were shocked when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report predicting that one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050.

The report, based on modeling data, is clearly a devastating finding for the health and well-being of Americans and a frightening omen for our economy. As the CDC and others look at how to prevent the prediction from coming true, it is important to remain aware that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise, and both desperately need our attention.

As organizations representing the nearly 24 million Americans living with diabetes, we know firsthand the emotional, physical and financial burden this disease places on individuals, families and communities. Diabetes is growing rapidly among all populations in the United States, and in the past 30 years, the number of people suffering from the disease has quadrupled. We are even more acutely aware of the extreme financial burden diabetes places on our country. One out of every five health care dollars is spent caring for someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes, while one out of every three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes.

The national price tag for diabetes is an astounding $174 billion per year, and that cost is estimated to almost triple in the next 25 years. Factoring in the additional costs of undiagnosed diabetes, pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes brings the total cost of the disease to $218 billion per year.

As a country, we cannot afford to ignore these startling facts. We must work to stop the deadly and expensive consequences of diabetes, and we must join together to ensure that successful programs are in place and being funded to help put an end to this debilitating disease.

Fortunately, Congress had the foresight to recognize this emerging silent epidemic, creating the Special Diabetes Program in 1997. This federal program is composed of two parts: the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians. Together, they have become our nation’s most strategic and effective federal initiative to combat diabetes and its complications.

Since its inception, Congress has consistently shown broad bipartisan support for the Special Diabetes Program. But despite its success, the program is set to expire next year unless Congress acts to renew it this year.

The Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes provides funding for groundbreaking Type 1 diabetes research that is improving the lives of those living with diabetes, preventing the onset in others and is bringing us closer to a cure. Clinical research supported by this program has demonstrated tangible results, including delaying the full onset of Type 1 diabetes in newly diagnosed patients, gaining insight on the underlying causes of diabetes and halting or reversing costly complications such as diabetic eye disease.

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