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Legislation would expand access, alleviate disparities in diabetes prevention

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April is Minority Health Month and legislation was introduced today to expand access to diabetes prevention programming in the United States.

The bipartisan bill would alleviate disparities in access to prevention resources by allowing seniors to use virtual care. 

Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina along with U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Florida and Diana DeGette of Colorado introduced the PREVENT DIABETES Act to make diabetes prevention care for Medicare patients permanent and more accessible online and address widespread disparities in access to diabetes care in medically underserved communities, including Black and Latino communities and rural areas.

“As the father of a Type 1 diabetic, I know how important consistent and reliable care is for patients’ health, but too many Virginians still struggle to get the care they deserve. This legislation will save lives by expanding access to diabetes prevention programs virtually,” Warner said. 

Scott said that many in South Carolina are vulnerable and struggling to manage the disease.

“Our bill aims to expand access to life-saving healthcare options by opening the door to virtual suppliers. We can and must ensure everyone in the Palmetto State — regardless of race, background, or zip code — has the support they deserve to manage their healthcare needs,” Scott said.   

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a higher prevalence of diabetes exists within minority populations. Diabetes affects 16.4 percent of Black adults, 14.9 percent percent of Asian adults and 14.7 percent of Latino adults, compared to 11.9 percent of white adults. To expand access to diabetes prevention programs, the PREVENT DIABETES Act would make permanent the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP), which is currently a demonstration program. The MDPP leverages evidence-based interventions to prevent the full onset of Type 2 diabetes in at-risk Medicare beneficiaries. The legislation would also make the program more accessible by allowing virtual suppliers to participate. 

“It is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  This is certainly the case with patients who are at high risk for developing diabetes,” Bilirakis said. “Through enhanced education, seniors will be empowered with tools they can use to optimize their health, avoid costly complications, and enjoy a better quality of life. This commonsense legislation will facilitate improved patient outcomes and save taxpayer money.”

DeGette, co-chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, said that tens of millions of Americans live with diabetes or prediabetes.

“Taking on diabetes requires a comprehensive approach to stopping type 2 diabetes before its onset. Our bill makes CDC-recognized diabetes prevention programs more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries at risk of diabetes, particularly those in rural areas and others who may not be able to attend an in-person diabetes prevention program. With a growing number of patients opting for virtual care, our PREVENT DIABETES Act will help more Americans learn about how they can avoid this disease,” DeGette said. 

Warner and Scott introduced the PREVENT DIABETES Act in 2020 and again in 2021. Companion legislation in the House of Representatives is led by Reps. Bilirakis and DeGette.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.