Medicaid expansion boosts diabetes diagnosis
Researchers from Quest Diagnostics found that states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act saw significant increases in diabetes being diagnosed compared to states that did not expand their Medicaid programs. In January 2014, 26 states expanded access to Medicaid, but 24 did not.
Medicaid is government-run health insurance for lower income people. According to the study, it may help people to be diagnosed with diabetes earlier, which ultimately improves later outcomes as people can make lifestyle changes and get medical treatment before developing complications.
Researchers tested the A1c of people with diabetes, which is the average reading of a blood sugar test. They tested how many people had at least one negative A1c test prior to Medicaid expansion but positive afterward.
Newly diagnosed diabetes cases in people on Medicaid increased by 23 percent, from 14,625 in the first six months of 2013 to 18,020 in the first six months of 2014. However, states that did not expand Medicaid had only a 0.4 percent increase in diabetes diagnoses.
Additionally, A1c tests, which measure blood sugar levels, improved after Medicaid expansion. The average A1c of newly diagnosed diabetes patients was 7.96 percent, compared with 8.14 percent in non-expansion states. A person is considered diabetic when their A1c reading is 6.5.
Men saw a greater increase in diagnosis than women. Other groups with higher diagnosis rates included people ages 50 to 64 compared to younger people.
However, there were some limitations to the study. Researchers relied solely on A1c tests done by Quest Diagnostics and lacked other clinical information. Some patients may have also been diagnosed prior to the beginning of the study.