How much would you be willing to pay for diabetes classes? Let me rephrase that. How much is diabetes education worth?
How about $40,000? Not too many years ago that was considered about the going rate for open-heart surgery. Fortunately, your health insurance would usually pay for a good chunk of that. But really, think about it, if your insurance wouldn't pay for it, and your quality of life was starting to go downhill fast, and you couldn't walk from the living room to the bathroom without getting out of breath or experiencing chest pain, would you have the surgery, even if you knew you had no way to pay for it?
What if the doctor told you that the open-heart surgery was necessary to save your life, that without it the quality of your life would continue to deteriorate until eventually you would be bedridden and then soon after die of heart failure? Would you elect to have this bank-breaking open-heart procedure? I'm thinking yes, you probably would. Even though it might cost close to $100,000 by the time all the medical bills are paid, I'm thinking most people would. I know I would, or I think I would.
So again, how much money should it cost you for 10 hours of diabetes education? Keep in mind it is not surgery and requires no hospital stay. (Well, at least not early on, for most people anyway.) In fact, highly-educated doctors are not even the teachers. In many cases, if you are lucky, a highly-trained, certified diabetes educator will provide the education.
Several years ago my mom developed lung cancer. The surgeon came in her room and asked her what she wanted to do. Before he had a chance to completely explain her options she responded, "Take it out. I want this out of me as soon as possible."
"So you want me to operate and remove the affected part of your lung," the doctor asked.
"Yes, as soon as you can, the sooner the better," she told him. My mom was 81. She had the surgery and is doing well. The total cost of the surgery, including the hospital and doctor bill, came to about $50,000. Without the surgery my mom might not be here now.
You know frequently, when first diagnosed with diabetes, a lot of people don't even feel bad, yet -- you know, the first year or so, before the onset of complications like heart disease (two out of three people with diabetes develop heart disease), nerve disease (diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations), eye disease (diabetes can impair vision and lead to blindness) and kidney disease (diabetes is a leading cause of kidney dialysis).
Recently, I had two suspicious moles frozen. After they were frozen they swelled up, dried up and fell off. The doctor didn't really think either amounted to much but said he could get rid of them if they bothered me. It cost about $200. The thing about it is that unlike the open-heart surgery, lung surgery and diabetes education, if I hadn't had my two moles removed I would have been none the worse.
Just in case you haven't figured it out by now, receiving diabetes education soon after diagnosis is of the utmost importance. I tell people in class that I cannot imagine successfully managing diabetes without attending a comprehensive diabetes class. (The American Diabetes Association recommends all newly-diagnosed patients with diabetes receive 10 hours of comprehensive education soon after diagnosis.) By the way, insurance usually will cover 10 hours of diabetes education within the first 12 months of being diagnosed.
I can assure you that mismanaged or ignored diabetes will eventually lead to some life-changing problems, problems that you want no part of. Diabetes education is as much a lifesaver as open heart surgery and cancer treatment (and much less expensive at only a fraction of the cost). However, sadly, there are far too many people with diabetes that fail to see the value of education.
Over the last 15 or so years this has led to most hospital-based diabetes education programs closing their doors, as education programs could not support themselves. Now, most of the hospital-based diabetes education programs that still exist are outpatient programs, many of which struggle to survive, as patients are reluctant to pay more than a small co-payment or their deductible for education they feel is not worth the price.
Twenty-six million people have diabetes, 336 million worldwide. Another 72 million people nationwide have pre-diabetes. Although not curable, Type 2 diabetes is highly treatable if you know what to do.
I used to think that doctors were the only ones that could save lives. I have learned over the years that diabetes educators and the education they provide can save lives as well. It would seem as though there are two parts to diabetes education. Part 1: getting the person with diabetes to realize how important diabetes education really is. Part 2: educating the person with diabetes about diabetes. Right now diabetes educators may need to focus on part one so we can continue part two.
Yes, diabetes education is right up there with heart surgery, cancer treatment and substance abuse rehab when it comes to saving lives. Concentrated efforts by informed professionals in the health care and insurance industry need to be made to affect a change in the public perception of the role comprehensive diabetes education plays in the lives of those with diabetes.
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