As someone with two family members with type 1diabetes, I know about the serious challenges they face in managing the disease.
Diabetes is a chronic condition, so diligent monitoring and management of blood-sugar levels is the key to avoiding complications, a critical part of thriving for those affected.
That’s why I found it particularly troubling that Medi-Cal – the state-run health plan for seniors, persons with disabilities, and low-income individuals – did not cover life-saving continuous glucose monitors. CGMs are clinically proven to be the best tool at our disposal to monitor blood-glucose levels.
The positive difference in blood sugar control after my sister began using a CGM was nothing less than incredible. Today, she is completing her masters degree in nursing, an accomplishment that would be difficult (at best) without good blood-sugar control.
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Medicare, Covered California, the Medicaid programs of more than 30 other states, 90 percent of managed care plans, and the California Children’s Services program all cover CGMs. However, thousands of Valley residents cannot access CGMs because they are enrolled in Medi-Cal instead.
I introduced Assembly Bill 447 to address this inequity and to make a commonsense policy change that will improve the lives of Valley residents. The Valley is not only home to the lowest rates of coverage but also the highest rates of diabetes in the state. It’s also the region with the highest rates of people covered by Medi-Cal – 44.5 percent in Stanislaus County and 51 percent in Merced County.
AB 447 requires that Medi-Cal provide coverage for continuous glucose monitors for the management and treatment of diabetes.
Expanding CGM coverage will not only improve healthcare outcomes, it will provide an opportunity to save taxpayer dollars. The cost of providing health care to people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than for those without diabetes, and a UCLA study found that 75 percent of the cost of hospitalizing patients with diabetes is paid by taxpayers. Patients without access to CGMs are more likely to experience diabetes-related complications such as stroke, kidney disease, amputations and blindness. Long-term savings from improved diabetes management could easily dwarf the short-term costs of providing the monitors.
It’s long past time to rid ourselves of this “penny-wise, pound-foolish” approach.
Thanks to the support and partnership of local health advocates – including Golden Valley Health Centers, Livingston Community Health and the Central California Alliance for Health – the Assembly passed AB 447, and California is now on track to addressing this serious and pressing need.
Our bill is moving through the Senate with bipartisan support, and I am confident we have the momentum to make it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. While the victory might seem small, its effects loom large for the thousands of people who would be able to avoid life-threatening health complications and emergency room visits caused by poorly managed blood sugar.
Adam Gray represents California’s 21st Assembly District, which includes all of Merced and part of Stanislaus counties.