President Clinton Friday announced an effort to combat diabetes, a metabolic disease that afflicts millions of Americans.
In a ceremony at Georgetown University Medical Center, the president called attention to $2.1 billion in federal spending over the next five years for diabetes treatment and research, included in the newly signed balanced budget legislation.
Most of the money will pay for expanded medical benefits for the estimated 3.2 million diabetics who are covered by Medicare. For the first time, Medicare will cover the purchase of monitors that enable patients to check their own blood sugar levels. It will also pay for health care providers who teach diabetics how to control the disease and keep blood sugar levels from rising or falling precipitously. Self-management training had been permitted only in hospital programs, while blood glucose monitors were covered only for diabetics who cannot control blood sugar by adjusting their diet and were required to take insulin.
The measure also provides $150 million for research into the prevention and cure of Type I diabetes, often known as juvenile diabetes because half of its sufferers are children, and $150 million for the treatment and prevention of rampant diabetes among American Indians.
The White House said that 16 million Americans have diabetes, which results from defects in the body’s ability to manufacture the insulin it needs to process glucose in the blood. It can cause kidney, nerve, heart or blood vessel failure.
For reasons that are unclear, American Indians are particularly vulnerable, with one out of every five suffering from the disease.