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Cornyn, Schumer And Senate Colleagues Urge Greater Priority On Diabetes Prevention For Medicare Recipients

WASHINGTON U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (RTexas) and Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), joined by 17 Senate colleagues, sent the following bipartisan letter to Secretary Michael Leavitt of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urging a priority be placed on diabetes screening and prevention for Medicare beneficiaries:

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

With an aging population and the deleterious effects of many chronic conditions, prevention must be a central priority for our health care system. As you know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long had a policy of focusing on primary prevention for diabetes. In recent years, both the public and private sector have called for an increased focus on prevention, including the preventive benefit services now available to Medicare beneficiaries.

Diabetes is a national health epidemicthe impact of which is felt most heavily in the Medicare population. According to a recent study in Diabetes Care, of the estimated 35 million Medicare beneficiaries age 65 or older, 61 percent or 21 million, have diabetes or prediabetes. Of the seven million Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, between two and 3.5 million are undiagnosed. Virtually all of the 14 million Medicare beneficiaries with prediabetes are undiagnosed.

Fortunately, Medicare beneficiaries at risk of diabetes are now eligible for annual diabetes screeningthose found to have prediabetes may be rescreened at six month intervals thereafter. Screening beneficiaries is the critical first step to preventing diabetes for those with prediabetes and improving care for those found with diabetes. A landmark NIH clinical trialthe Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)showed that modest changes in exercise and diet can prevent diabetes in 58 percent of people at highrisk for the disease. What is more, the trial showed that participants over 60 years of age benefited the mostpreventing the onset of diabetes by 71 percent.

We strongly encourage you to make diabetes screening and prevention for Medicare beneficiaries a top priority. Please include in your FY 2008 budget proposal an aggressive collaborative effort between the CDC, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and other key agencies to find, and screen the 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries with prediabetes. The DPP shows that such an initiative would save lives and save money.

Thank you for your attention to diabetes screening in Medicare and for all you are doing to improve the health and lives of our fellow Americans.


John Cornyn (RTexas)

Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.)

Wayne Allard (RColo.)

Jim Bunning (RKy.)

Hillary Clinton (DN.Y.)

Larry Craig (RIdaho)

Lindsey Graham (RS.C.)

Kay Bailey Hutchison (RTexas)

John Kerry (DMass.)

Mary Landrieu (DLa.)

Frank Lautenberg (DN.J.)

Patrick Leahy (DVt.)

Blanche Lincoln (DArk.)

Robert Menendez (D.N.J.)

Patty Murray (DWash.)

Jack Reed (DR.I.)

Ken Salazar (DColo.)

Olympia Snowe (RMaine)

Ron Wyden (DOregon)