Health insurance company works on diabetes prevention

Kathryn Vercillo | April 17, 2010

Prevention is always better than treatment. After all, wouldn't you rather avoid getting a serious health condition rather than having to deal with treating it once you've got it? Unfortunately, our health care system hasn't traditionally been geared towards prevention. Medical insurance companies have had to focus on paying constantly increasing treatment costs. However, one insurer is looking to change that. UnitedHealth Group is launching a series of new programs that aim to prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition

Type 2 Diabetes is one of the most serious medical problems facing the nation today. It is also one of the most expensive conditions. Not only does diabetes itself need to be treated, but the condition also causes a number of other health issues within the body which must be treated as time goes on. The cost to insurance companies is high. UnitedHealth believes that investing money into preventative programs will save them money in the end. Ideally, those savings would be passed on to customers.

The UnitedHealthcare type 2 diabetes prevention program

A main part of the new program by UnitedHealth is that the insurer has teamed up with the YMCA to create diabetes prevention programs. The programs employ lifestyle coaches who work with at-risk individuals to develop an exercise plan that should aid them in preventing the onset of diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition but it is one that can be prevented in large part through proper diet and exercise. The new YMCA program would establish weight loss goals to prevent diabetes. Because 25 percent of adults are considered at-risk for the disease, this could result in significant levels of prevention.

UnitedHealth also wants to work on preventive treatment for people who have already been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. You can't necessarily reverse the condition but proper treatment can limit the negative effects (and ongoing medical needs) of Type 2 Diabetes. That's why UnitedHealth is also teaming up with pharmacists to create programs through which diabetics would be educated on better management of the illness.

Does This Mark a New Health Insurance Trend?

All of this is part of a shift that seems to be occurring in the role of health insurers. Employers and consumers alike are demanding that health insurance companies take a more active role in medicine. People want affordable health insurance. They don't want to see premiums continue to rise as insurers work to pay for treatment. Instead, they want to see their money going to disease prevention. Employers, in particular, want to keep health care costs down as the new health care reform rules start to take effect.

One of the things that people are praising about the UnitedHealth program is that results should be available very quickly. By launching two separate programs (with the YMCA and with pharmacists) in multiple locations, the group should be able to provide solid information about their results in a short period of time. Health care reform is mandating experiments such as this from other companies, but the results of those experiments may take as long as five years to come in. By then, UnitedHealth hopes to have expanded their programs and to be actively keeping medical costs down through disease prevention.

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