Medicaid Expansion Fights Back Against Diabetes

March 24, 2015

A newly released study suggests that states taking part in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act are doing a significantly better job at identifying patients with undiagnosed diabetes. The study found that diabetes diagnosis rates among Medicaid rates increased over 10 times as much as those living in non-expansion states1.

Put more simply, Medicaid expansion is working. People with chronic health conditions who didn’t have access to the necessary screenings and treatments are now getting access, getting diagnosed, and getting treated.

Some background: diabetes is a chronic medical condition where the body is unable to properly regulate blood glucose levels. If identified early, lifestyle changes and medical treatment can prevent serious long-term effects, but left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and nerves2.

Unfortunately, those without healthcare frequently delay care until serious symptoms manifest. Type II diabetes, which is a preventable condition, has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, affecting over 29 million Americans — with nearly a quarter remaining undiagnosed and untreated3. With such a high prevalence, it is critical that people are screened and begin treatment as soon as possible, before an outbreak of major symptoms triggers a public health emergency.

Thanks to Medicaid expansion, some states are now making huge strides in identifying the onset of diabetes. By simply expanding access to basic services routine checkups and preventative screenings, a huge swath of people with a serious medical condition can take the first steps to receiving care and controlling their diabetes.

These early signs of success indicate that Medicaid expansion has had and can continue to have a tangible and significant impact in improving the well-being of low-income Americans, and suggest that Medicaid expansion might also have similar impacts on other treatable chronic health conditions, such as high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure, ensuring that these conditions are diagnosed early and that individuals are able to make lifestyle changes and begin treatment long before serious effects manifest.

These early results point to two conclusions. Firstly, they make a strong case to the remaining states that have opted-out of Medicaid expansion to implement their own expanded Medicaid programs. Failing to expand Medicaid leaves residents disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of chronic medical conditions compared to those who live in expansion states. Secondly, in Medicaid extension states, these results also underscore the importance of appropriate follow-up following a diagnosis. In California, this means making sure Medi-Cal Managed Care provides follow-ups that link individuals with the resources to receive effective treatment, counseling, and tools for self-management to control their chronic medical conditions.

  1. The study looked at diabetes indicators among Quest Diagnostic clients in Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states in 2013 and 2014. Quest Diagnostics contracts with healthcare providers to perform routine diagnostic testing. 
  3. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease which is non-preventable, but Type II diabetes develops in response to over-consumption of sugary foods and a lack of exercise. Type II is by far more prevalent.–but-a-quarter-of-them-dont-realize-it/2014/11/20/0831a908-6e84-11e4-ad12-3734c461eab6_story.html