US Senate Aging Committee Highlights Importance of Diabetes Funding and Research
July 17, 2015 09:14 AM
The US Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing on Wednesday, July 15, to discuss the importance of funding and research to combat diabetes. The hearing, “Diabetes Research: Improving Lives on the Path to a Cure,”included witnesses from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Missouri School of Medicine, as well as individuals with firsthand experience living with Type 1 diabetes.
Also in attendance at the hearing were 160 delegates from every state participating in the Children’s Congress of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The children travelled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for diabetes funding and research. Three of the children testified at the hearing about their experiences living with diabetes and the importance of continuous glucose monitoring technologies in managing their conditions. One of the witnesses was a teenager from Casco, Maine, who recently broke a 39-year-old national high school long-jump record by jumping 22 feet, 5 inches.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who chairs the Senate Aging Committee and is the founder of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, emphasized the importance of diabetes funding and research. She highlighted both the costs associated with diabetes, including the financial burdens it puts on individuals, the health care system and Medicare. “I’ve learned a lot about the difficulties and heartaches that this diseases causes for so many American families as they await a cure,” she said. “Diabetes is a lifelong condition that does not discriminate. It affects people of every age, race and nationality. Moreover, diabetes costs the United States and estimated $245 billion a year, a cost that is projected to more than double by the year 2020. It also accounts for one out of three Medicare dollars. In fact, medical costs for Americans with diabetes are more than double those incurred by those without diabetes.”
Collins praised the increase in funding for diabetes research from $310 million in 1997 to over $1 billion in 2015, which has allowed for technological innovations such as advances in the artificial pancreas and continuous glucose monitors (CGM). Collins said technology has been critical in helping individuals control their disease and maintain qualities of life.
While applauding the innovations, Collins expressed concern that Medicare beneficiaries are being denied coverage for CGM. “I was surprised and troubled to learn that insulin dependent Medicare beneficiaries are being denied coverage for continuous glucose monitors,” she said. “Even though 95 percent of private insurers cover continuous glucose monitors, Medicare does not and that’s why I’ve joined Senator [Jean] Shaheen [D-NH], Co-Chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, in introducing legislation to require Medicare to cover this important device.” Senators Collins and Shaheen introduced the Medicare CGM Access Act (S. 804) in March. More information about the bill is available here.
Later in the hearing, Collins asked Griffin Rodgers, MD, Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease at NIH whether Medicare officials had consulted with NIH before making the determination on GCM coverage. Rodgers indicated he was unaware of any such communication. “I think it’s absolutely incredible that Medicare officials did not consult with you, the foremost expert that we have at NIH overseeing this research, nor did they consult with the FDA [Food and Drug Administration], which approved the device, before deciding that it was just a precautionary or safety device and therefore was considered non-medical,” Collins said. She added that, based on the witness testimony, the monitors are indeed medical, life-saving technologies.
An additional effort Collins cited was legislation enacted earlier this year to extend the special diabetes program through September 2017, including an additional $100 million each year for Type 1 diabetes research. “While we’re making progress in the battle against diabetes, this is no time to take our foot off the accelerator,” she said.
All of the senators expressed particular gratitude for the children who had travelled to the nation’s capital to make their case for diabetes research and funding. “I’m so proud of all of you,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), “because you’re learning firsthand that you can make a difference. And you’re here in Washington because this is your government, and your government needs to listen to you about what you’re living with and what you’re needs are and the incredible gaping hole we have in this country.”
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) supports efforts to improve the early diagnosis and treatment of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. NAHC wants to make sure home health agencies are involved in the continued care and treatment of individuals with this disease.
More information about the hearing, including the witnesses and their testimonies, is available here.