First-ever attempt for health plan to reimburse for prevention reflects spirit of new health reform law
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Al Franken (D-MN) today welcomed the news that UnitedHealth Group will partner with YMCA of the USA to reimburse participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program, a 16 session, group-based lifestyle intervention for individuals at high-risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The effort is modeled on the Diabetes Prevention Act, a version of which was included in the health reform bill recently signed into law. Today’s announcement is the first time in the U.S. that a health plan will reimburse a community-based provider for an evidence-based diabetes prevention program.
“Removing the barriers to healthy living starts at the local level – it starts in our communities. And these kinds of local programs have a big return on investment,” said Harkin. “Programs like those offered through the YMCA help rein in chronic diseases like diabetes, which will mean less health spending down the road. Our aim in health reform was to change our ‘sick care’ system into a true health care system. This first-ever effort by a major health plan to reimburse for prevention reflects the spirit of the new health reform law.”
Harkin has a long history of working toward prevention efforts. As a senior member and now Chairman of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin wrote the prevention and wellness title of the Senate health reform effort, which includes a historic investment in prevention efforts like the one announced today. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on health, he has directed funding for similar efforts through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This public-private partnership is a perfect example of how good policy can bring people together,” said Franken, a member of the HELP Committee. “Diabetes prevention is win-win-win. It saves money and makes us a healthier country. And knowing that Minnesota will be among the first states to benefit makes it an even bigger victory.”
The Diabetes Prevention Act, first introduced by Franken and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), is modeled off Minnesota and Indiana programs to help pre-diabetics make lifestyle changes before they develop the disease. The YMCA recently awarded their 2010 Congressional Champion Award to Sen. Franken for his bipartisan work on the Diabetes Prevention Act and his commitment to conquering this disease.
YMCA of the USA’s work with UnitedHealth Group will begin with seven YMCAs – Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Phoenix, Ariz. – with plans expand throughout 2010 and beyond.