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YMCA’s diabetes program trims Medicaid costs

A diabetes prevention program used by the YMCA has been shown to reduce net Medicare spending, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced.

About 30 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, resulting in two American deaths every five minutes. Additionally, 86 million Americans have a high risk of developing diabetes, because one in every three adults has prediabetes, a condition that arises when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Many people with prediabetes develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

The Diabetes Prevention Program in the YMCA of Greater New York – similar to one available at the YMCA Buffalo Niagara – has been certified to reduce net Medicare spending by the independent Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“This program has been shown to reduce health care costs and help prevent diabetes, and is one that Medicare, employers and private insurers can use to help 86 million Americans live healthier,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said. “The Affordable Care Act gave Medicare the tools to support this ground-breaking effort and to expand this program more broadly. This announcement is a milestone for prevention and America’s health.”

Those who attended the YMCA program that was studied attended weekly meetings with a lifestyle coach who trained participants in strategies for long-term dietary change, increased physical activity, and behavior changes to control their weight and decrease their Type 2 diabetes risk. After the initial weekly training sessions, participants could attend monthly follow-up meetings to help maintain healthy behaviors.

• Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the program lost about 5 percent of their body weight, which is enough to substantially reduce the risk of future diabetes.

• More than 80 percent of participants recruited attended at least four weekly sessions.

• When compared with similar beneficiaries not in the program, Medicare estimated savings of $2,650 for each enrollee in the Diabetes Prevention Program over a 15-month period, more than enough to cover the cost of the program.

A new batch of classes for those at risk of diabetes starts next month in several YMCA Buffalo Niagara branches. For more information, click on the Wellness tab at or call 565-6000.