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February 20, 2001


Question from :

From the State of Washington, USA My 38 year old husband is has diabetes, and I worry about what medical we will have when he retires. I often think that if we don't have a huge retirement fund, we won't be able to afford medicine and visits to endocrinologists. Right now, he works as a engineer in a high-tech profession. I also worry about my nine year old daughter who has diabetes as well. I know I can hope for a cure by then, but let's be realistic. Lots of people in the USA have type 1 diabetes. How are they going to get the right medical care when they retire?


Your concern is a valid one that is certainly shared by millions of Americans. Diabetes, and especially its complications, is an extraordinarily expensive disease.

When your husband turns 65, he will, of course, have Medicare coverage. Currently, it does not include medications. However, Congress has indicated a growing interest in including it, and by the time your husband is eligible, there is a good chance that insulin and other medication necessary to treat the disease will be covered.

Your concern is with accumulating a sufficient retirement fund. That’s not the problem. The real problem is the cost of diabetes treatment beforeyour husband is 65, if his employer doesn’t provide insurance. If you don’t have or lose your insurance before then, the costs could be very high. While private coverage for people with preexisting conditions like diabetes is available, it is extremely expensive.

That means it is all the more important for both your husband and daughter to control diabetes, i.e. control blood glucose. They need to have a hemoglobin A1c level checked every three months and keep it as close to normal as possible without frequent episodes of hypoglycemia. This significantly improves chances of avoiding debilitating, costly, and often life-threatening complications.

Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:

It’s hard to answer your question about retirement coverage for medical conditions such as diabetes. However, Medicare covers a great deal of routine diabetes needs and hopefully this type of coverage will increase in the future. You should make sure that you let your Congressmen and Senators know of your concerns since they write the bills that allow such coverage to continue. Some companies also provide retirement health care benefits so it may also depend upon which company your husband works for at the time of retirement.

Additional comments from Dr. Jim Lane:
I would suggest that you contact the American Diabetes Association since they have a public advocacy program that is growing rapidly. Their goal is to interact with local and federal lawmakers, and this sounds like a group that shares your concerns. The telephone number at their national office is 1-800-DIABETES.


[Editor’s comment: Also, see Now! Expanded Coverage for Diabetes — Today’s Medicare Has More To Offer You. from the US Government.