Health insurance exhibits no effects for diabetics in developing countries

Jan. 17, 2012, 2:05 a.m.

According to a recent study, those with health insurance do not experience better care or treatment for diabetes than those without insurance in developing countries such as India and China.


The study, which will be published on Jan. 24 in the journal of the American Diabetes Association titled Diabetes Care, looked at responses to a global survey by the World Health Organization, using the data from 35 countries that could be described as “low- or middle-income” in 2002 and 2003, according to a press release on Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) for International Studies website.


Using this information, researchers discovered that those diabetics with health insurance were not more likely to have proper medication, nor were they less likely to be in a state of “catastrophic medical spending,” than those without health insurance. The latter term is classified as those who spend “more than 25 percent of a household income on medical care,” according to the study.


The study concluded that some reasons why diabetics with health insurance do not fare better in developing countries is because of a shortage of a supply of medications like insulin in these countries, as well as high co-payments or deductibles.


“Public and private health insurance programs aren’t providing sufficient protection for diabetics in many developing countries,” said Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, assistant professor of medicine who led the research, in the press release. “People with insurance aren’t doing markedly better than those who don’t have it. Health insurance and health systems need to be re-oriented to better address chronic diseases like diabetes.”


Researchers said that this is a pressing problem because the number of diabetics in these countries is likely to increase over the years as household incomes increase, and not treating diabetes often leads to those individuals to spiral into an even worse medical and financial state.


“It’s important to get ahead of the curve and prepare so there’s an infrastructure in place to deal with these health and cost issues,” Goldhaber-Fiebert said.


Jay Bhattacharya, an associate professor of medicine, and Crystal Smith-Spangle, an instructor at Stanford’s Department of Medicine, co-authored the study.


— Kurt Chirbas

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