Although India has the dubious distinction of being the diabetes capital of the world, an effective health cover continues to elude Â people living with diabetes. While most health insurance companies do not provide coverage for diabetics, some of those which Â offer charge a high premium. In the wake of this, the recently set up Karnataka State Health Systems Commission is working on Â legislation on insurance coverage for diabetics.
Commission chairperson N. Prabhudev told The Hindu recently it was unfortunate that despite all the talk about the importance Â of preventive strategies for diabetes, insurance companies were reluctant to provide coverage for diabetics.
While the disease itself is not excluded, the worst hit are those who are already under treatment as they risk most major ailments being excluded from insurance coverage, according to him.
â€œThe commission took up this issue for discussion at its first meeting held a few days ago. The plan is to conduct a workshop on diabetes to elicit expertsâ€™ opinion on the issue. Following that we will recommend to the State government to frame the required legislation,â€ Dr. Prabhudev said.
A sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits and genetic pre-disposition are some of the reasons for a rise in the incidence of diabetes in India.
Elaborating on the need for insurance coverage, Dr. Prabhudev said: â€œDiabetes can cause serious health complications which usually affect the kidneys and the eyes and [can even lead to] amputation of the limbs. Treating these complications can seriously impact the personâ€™s finances. Hence the need for insurance coverage is all the more important.â€
Dr. Prabhudev, who asserted that diabetes treatment and management should also be taken up on priority by the State government, said the commission would soon start a State diabetes programme. If everything goes as per plans, the programme should roll out by January, he said.
The programme will include measuring the problem (disease prevalence, morbidity and cost), interventions to mitigate the problem (prevention, early diagnosis, services and care of people with diabetes) and evaluation of the impact of interventions. A massive public diabetes health awareness programme to bring about changes in the lifestyle of people was also on the cards, he added.
According to experts, by the time a person starts showing symptoms of diabetes such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, tiredness, hunger pangs and weight loss, he/she would have already had high blood sugar levels for at least two to three years.
K.R. Narasimha Shetty, Director of the State-run Karnataka Institute of Diabetology, said it was not uncommon to have diabetes and yet have no symptoms. â€œPeople should not wait for the symptoms of diabetes to show up before they see a doctor. Anyone with a family history of diabetes having other risk factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle and related factors should go in for early diagnosis,â€ he said.
World Diabetes Day
November 14 is observed as World Diabetes Day and this year the theme is â€˜Diabetes education and preventionâ€™. With the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that more than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes and that the number is likely to more than double by 2030 without intervention, the Union Health Ministry has come out with an integrated approach to diabetes prevention and control.