The High Cost of Diabetes and How to Avoid It

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This article was written by James Ashford with Vision Care Direct, a Gold Sponsor at our Ninth Annual Native American Human Resources Conference.

I recently attended the American Diabetes Association 78th Annual Scientific Conference in Orlando Florida. Over 13,000 people from all over the world attended the conference for 3 jammed packed days. The conference was filled from morning to evening with tremendous teaching, informative symposiums, and great access to see the latest and greatest advancements in new technology in the fight against diabetes.

Right after the conference the ADA released the latest numbers. I don’t think any of us are shocked to hear that diabetes is an even bigger problem than it was in 2012 when the previous numbers were released. Here are some of the highlights. Nearly 30 Million Americans have diabetes and over 86 Million have prediabetes. Those numbers translate into 1 in every 5 healthcare dollars or 20% of your healthcare costs are because of diabetes. Diabetes is costing $322 Billion every year with no signs of it slowing down. Approximately, 27% of prescription drug costs are related to diabetes and the ADA reports that people with diabetes have health care costs 2.3 times higher than those who don’t have the disease.












Pretty staggering numbers and a bit scary if you apply the percentages to your organization. At the conference I saw tremendous movement in technology to control the disease, fantastic education about the disease and an increase in general knowledge of the disease. I saw study after study on how to lower costs for existing diabetics. Obviously, it’s important to companies to try to lower costs. The CDC reports that diabetics costs over $7,000 more than an employee without the disease.

Here’s what I was shocked by. No one at the conference was focused on early detection and prevention of the disease. The average cost of a colonoscopy is over $1000. Why is that offered at no cost, because early detection is the key and no one thinks twice about it. Those of us that work with large populations of employees already understand the ROI behind early detection. Working with Optometrists, I have long known that diabetes can be seen in the eye earlier than any other area in the body. In fact, we have technology that will allow us to do onsite screenings that can show prediabetes up to 7 years before the blood shows evidence. So why isn’t there more emphasis on early detection and prevention? Many say, there’s no money in the medical community for prevention, but as an employer of a large group there certainly is tremendous savings for prevention that will improve the bottom line.

Another statistic I heard at the conference was that 77% of prediabetics can be prevented from having the disease and that approximately a third of our population has prediabetes. What I have come to learn is that a Population Health Management Strategy aimed at early detection of the disease and prevention can have a tremendous impact to your bottom line, without a doubt. One that will produce a significant ROI.

Think about this, if you have a 1,000-employee company that means you probably have between 250 – 350 prediabetics in your organization. If 77% of those can be prevented through small behavioral changes, annual comprehensive eye exams and blood glucose monitoring, that means 192 – 271 employees could be prevented from ever costing that additional $7,000 the CDC reports. On the low end that is a $1.3 Million-dollar cost avoidance strategy! That certainly will affect your bottom line, but that doesn’t even factor in the intangible costs savings of lost productivity at work, increased absenteeism, increased mortality, etc.

Having done thousands of scans for prediabetes, I know the numbers line up as reported and I know that most are shocked to with the results. Unfortunately, ever time we scan, we catch several Type 2 Diabetics that had no idea! These employees are going would become very expensive if they had not been scanned. I highly recommend for companies that are self-funded to look for ways to detect prediabetes and implement a mitigation strategy to avoid the rapidly rising health care cost of diabetes. This is my passion, if I can be of any help, please reach out to me.


James Ashford is the State Director for Vision Care Direct and the Director of Population Health Management Solutions out of Tulsa, OK.  His passion is working with tribes because he is proudly married to a Creek and has 5 Native American children. He has seen first hand in his wife’s family the destruction this disease causes and has developed a unique process to detect prediabetes and a program to work with those employees to prevent the disease.  He can be contacted at or (855) 918-2020

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