UnitedHealth partners for diabetes fight

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TESS VIGELAND: Over the next few years, health insurers will have to start covering everyone. No more rejecting people because of preexisting conditions. Or denying care at the moment they get sick. Logically that means insurance companies should want their customers to be as healthy as possible. And what's that they say about an ounce of prevention?

Well, today UnitedHealth Group announced a new focus on helping folks stay out of the doctor's office. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer explains.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: UnitedHealth Group knows if it can keep us from getting sick, it'll have healthier profits. So it's partnering with the YMCA and Walgreens to get people to exercise and lose weight. The idea is to prevent and control diabetes, and its runaway costs. Right now, 44 cents of every dollar UnitedHealth spends on treatment goes toward diabetes care.

TOM BEAUREGARD: This program will pay for itself.

Tom Beauregard is a senior vice president of UnitedHealth Group. He says the company will spend millions of dollars developing the prevention program. It'll pay the Y for personal trainers to work with people it insures who are overweight. It'll pay pharmacists to help diabetics manage their disease. Beauregard says studies show that a 5 percent drop in weight can cut the odds of getting diabetes by almost 60 percent.

BEAUREGARD: We've got to find a way to tip the scale on this disease, and I think we've done that.

All this sounds pretty good to Les Funtleyder. He's a health care strategist at Miller Tabak.

LES FUNTLEYDER: As an investor, we look for companies who either improve outcomes or lower costs. And this program will do both.

UnitedHealth doesn't just have to please investors. Employers are fed up with skyrocketing premiums.

Helen Darling is president of the National Business Group on Health. Darling says companies want insurers to focus on lowering costs.

HELEN DARLING: There's more pressure on them to be more innovative and maybe take more risks than they might have done in the sleepy old days of the 1990s.

Insurers know those days are gone.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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To fight with diabetes insulin. diet and exercise are have a great important. Without this three things it is not possible to control or to cure diabetes. Many people are now fighting with the diabetes and this is an life long diseases which never end. The information in this post will help to fight with diabetes.

You think all Diabetic people are ?FAT PEOPLE.
Our health care cost will go up & up if UHC will start spending money this way after gym and pharmasists who are already making plenty of money any way.
You are what you eat and in fact diabetes is passed on from generation to generation a familiar/genetic disease.It is your bad or wrong genes that person receives from on or both parents that gives one that illness.As we age pancrease becomes firous looses function and thus one developes old age diabetes.
Simple walking and healthy well balance diet should be enough to live long healthy life for every diabetic person.

Insurance companies haven't been able to stop covering someone the moment he or she gets sick for years. If there were loopholes before the recent change in the law, I'm sure there are *still* loopholes.

Medical studies have shown a direct correlation between how much a
person exercises and the reduced risk of developing diabetes. Why limit subsidized personal trainers to only those at YMCA's? There are more than 20,000 conveniently located private (and taxpaying) health & fitness facilities with thousands of qualified personal trainers already helping millions of Americans live healthier. Find one at http://www.healthclubs.com. Our association would be happy to work with any health insurer or business looking for ways to encourage physical activity and reduce health care costs.
-Jay Ablondi
International Health, Racquet & Sportclub Association. Boston,MA

Right on Sarah. While they make great PR headlines, called "Spin", here is what they don't tell you. I hope they improve their formulary as well. My Aarp United Health Care prescription plan pays $2 and I pay $7 for my diabetes type II metformin medication. Now back to nutrition. I have received excellent support, advice, and encouragement from three (due to my moving) registered dietitians, which medicare pays for 2 annual visits. The personal education and personal food plan and personal goal setting for diet and exercise; that I received has and is making all the difference. Left to my books, internet, and friends; I had it all messed up.

It's encouraging to learn that one of our nation's largest health insurance companies is going to put more effort into helping "folks stay out of the doctor's office" and support diabetes prevention and control. However, in the fight to prevent diabetes, paying personal trainers and pharmacists does not nearly go far enough. Nutrition therapy, which is missing from UnitedHealth Group's new plan, has long been known to be a vital tool in preventing and/or controlling diabetes. Countless studies point to the effectiveness of nutrition management in controlling blood sugar levels (insulin-dependent patients who work with nutritionists to change their diets often can decrease or cease their diabetes medications), managing the conditions that often precede diabetes such as obesity and impaired fasting glucose, and preventing complications from diabetes such as blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart disease and amputations.

I am the billing manager for a nutrition counseling center in Massachusetts, and UnitedHealthcare is the only insurer I am aware of that, across the board, does NOT cover nutrition counseling. When I heard the beginning of your story I was excitedly waiting to hear that they are now willing to support nutrition counseling as the powerful, effective and inexpensive preventive tool that it is. But, alas, it turns out that UnitedHealthcare is only going halfway, and despite the personal trainers at the YMCA and the enlightened pharmacists at Walgreen's, many of their insured will get very ill anyway, because a very important illness prevention tool is being ignored.

So, Mr. employer, will you use coercion, incentives AND consequences? And what about medicare folks; who and how will "they" apply the same?
I can hardly wait until smokers, and drinkers and those refusing to go to the gym are in a class action suit for wrongful termination. What a world we live in! I am going to go right on over to my overweight friends home and demand that they go to the gym so that my health care premiums aren't affected when these guys are in the hospital with diabetes complications. I will tell them that it is in my best interest that they die now or get the heck into shape! Anybody know how to motivate old farts?
44% of costs are for treating diabetes related issues. WOW! I think it was the corn syrup. I am 66 and 8 months ago diagnosed type II. My bmi is 26. Go figure.

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