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Diabetes monitor bill will cut costs and save lives

A monitor tracks glucose levels, but the devices aren’t covered for diabetes patients on Medi-Cal. Advocates are urging the Legislature to change that.
A monitor tracks glucose levels, but the devices aren’t covered for diabetes patients on Medi-Cal. Advocates are urging the Legislature to change that. aseng@sacbee.com

During my nurse residency program, I listened to a lecture about diabetes and what people with the disease live with every day. Only months later, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

 
Opinion

At first I was devastated, but quickly realized I was not alone. About one in seven U.S. adults have diabetes, and California has the most new cases annually of any state. Diabetes is a chronic condition, so meticulous monitoring and management of blood-sugar levels is the key to avoiding complications. In the first year after my diagnosis, it was hard to get my levels just right. That’s when I turned to a continuous glucose monitoring system, which uses alarms and alerts when blood glucose reaches a life-threatening level.

But tens of thousands of Californians with diabetes – senior citizens, low-income individuals, and people with disabilities – cannot access these life-saving devices because while they are covered by health insurance for people like me, they aren’t covered by Medi-Cal.

Assembly Bill 447, which is making its way through the Legislature, would require Medi-Cal to cover continuous glucose monitors. AB 447 would not only help improve the lives of Medi-Cal patients, but also would help lower health care spending and save taxpayer money.

Health care costs for people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than for those without, and a UCLA study found that 75 percent of hospital costs for patients with diabetes is paid by taxpayers. Patients without the glucose monitors are more likely to experience complications such as stroke, kidney disease, amputations and blindness. If AB 447 becomes law, the long-term savings would dwarf the short-term costs.

As a diabetes nurse educator and someone who manages diabetes every day, I can tell you that passing this bill will change the lives and improve the health of tens of thousands of low-income and senior Californians. AB 447 has bipartisan support, and if it reaches Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, he should sign this lifesaving bill into law.

Berit Bagley of El Dorado Hills is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator. She can be contacted at BeritMaria@msn.com.

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