July 19 2017

With the fate of American health care in limbo in Washington DC, California is doing what it can to lean in on preventive measures to address chronic disease early, and curb the cost of Medi-Cal. One of the most expensive and pervasive diseases plaguing California is diabetes. More than half (55 percent) of adults in California and a quarter of teenagers have diabetes or prediabetes, signaling a deadly epidemic with a very high price tag for Medi-Cal.

Recently, the State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown approved a $5 million per year package to implement a new CDC approved diabetes prevention program for Medi-Cal recipients. The federal government is expected to provide an additional $8 million a year for the program as well.

The program has had great success, and has managed to cut the risk of developing diabetes in half where it has been implemented. California will be the third state to implement the program, after Montana and Minnesota. The California Diabetes Prevention Program will become a Medi-Cal covered service beginning July 1, 2018.

This move to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes among California’s prediabetic population is crucial; without intervention, the rate of diabetes in California would likely rise by 80 percent over the next five years. Costs to treat diabetes are very high, so the state’s investment in preventing the disease could save an estimated $45 million in Medi-Cal payments.

Those eligible for enrollment in the program include people over the age of 18 who have not been diagnosed with diabetes, but who have high blood sugar levels, or women who experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy. The program also requires that participants have a body mass index over 25. The program works with individuals to lower body weight by 5 to 7 percent by giving people tools for healthy eating, exercise, and stress management. The state expects to enroll 25,000 people into the program every year.