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New Medicare Diabetes Prevention Coverage May Limit Beneficiary Access and Widen Health Disparities

Ritchie, Natalie D., PhD*,†; Gritz, Robert M., PhD

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000981
Brief Report

Background: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently issued final rules for the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP), offering an unprecedented opportunity to provide lifestyle intervention to Medicare beneficiaries with prediabetes via a pay-for-performance model. The MDPP is based on the widely disseminated, yearlong National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP), which has lesser but still beneficial risk-reduction outcomes among minority and low-income participants.

Objectives: We compare projected payments based on outcomes of a diverse sample of Medicare beneficiaries to service delivery costs, and explore resulting implications for MDPP access and sustainability.

Methods: We delivered NDPP in a safety-net health care system from 2013 to 2017 and conducted an analysis of service cost, beneficiary performance, and projected MDPP reimbursement.

Results: Among 1165 total participants, 213 (18.3%) were Medicare beneficiaries. Participating beneficiaries were 40.6% Hispanic, 31.6% non-Hispanic black, and 26.9% non-Hispanic white and 69.5% low-income. Overall beneficiary performance would result in an average reimbursement of $138.52 (interquartile range=162.50). Program delivery costs were $800 per participant, leaving an average gap of $661 per beneficiary.

Conclusions: Findings from delivering the NDPP to diverse and undeserved patients show a large gap between service costs and projected reimbursement. Although many MDPP suppliers are needed to reach all Medicare beneficiaries with prediabetes, insufficient reimbursement may be a deterrent. Health disparities may also widen as suppliers serving diverse and low-income populations will likely receive especially low payments, threatening access. Higher payments are supported by strong return-on-investment findings and seem needed to reduce diabetes prevalence and related disparities.

*Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Ambulatory Care Services, Denver

Department of Psychiatry

Division of Health Care Policy and Research, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO

The National Diabetes Prevention Program at Denver Health was funded by the Amendment 35 Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Grant Program administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as an award from America’s Health Insurance Plans in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional support was provided by Denver Health.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Natalie D. Ritchie, PhD, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, 777 Bannock Street, MC 6017, Denver, CO 80204. E-mail:

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