Patients with diabetes represented 31% of hospitalizations among people 35 and older in California in 2011, according to a new report from researchers and healthcare advocates.
The disproportionate numbers of diabetic patients -- overall, only 11.6% of Californians in that age group have diabetes -- have resulted in significant added hospital expenses, study authors said. The average cost of hospitalization for a person with diabetes was about $2,200 more than that for a person without the disorder, said study lead author Ying-Ying Meng, a researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
"The state pays $1.6 billion for these extra costs," she said. "If we could prevent some of those hospitalizations, then the resources could be moved toward preventive measures."
Meng and coauthors from the UCLA health policy center and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a group that promotes policies to combat obesity and diabetes, released their report Thursday. The team used hospital discharge records compiled by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and other sources to complete its analysis.
Meng said she believed the report was the first to quantify hospitalizations of patients with diabetes in California. She said that she was surprised to see so many diabetic patients among hospital stays.
The study also broke out the data by race and ethnic group and by county -- finding stark differences in different populations and regions of the state.
Whites had lower rates of hospitalization with diabetes than other ethnic and racial groups. Among Latino hospital patients, 43.2% had diabetes; among African-Americans, 39.3% had the condition. The county with the highest percentage of hospitalizations for people with diabetes was Imperial County, with 41.0%. The lowest percentage was in Nevada County, with 19.9%
Los Angeles County, with a rate of hospitalization of diabetic patients of 33.1%, had the largest number of discharges in 2011: more than 220,000. The report estimated that the additional costs of treating diabetics in L.A. County was around $491 million that year.
About three-quarters of the hospital stays for people with diabetes were paid for by public insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the study found.
Not all of the patients were hospitalized for diabetes, but Meng said it costs more to treat diabetic patients in general because of associated complications such as vascular or retinal disease, and because diabetic patients require special measures to control their blood-sugar levels.
The study focused on patients 35 years and older because they are the population most likely to be hospitalized, Meng said, and because 90% to 95% of diagnosed diabetes cases are Type II diabetes, which mainly affects adults, affecting older people more than younger ones. If people 18 and older had been included in the UCLA analysis, the percentage of hospitalizations involving diabetic patients would have dropped to 23.9%, the study noted.
According to background information in the report, more than 2.3 million people in California had diabetes in 2011-2012 -- a 35% increase over 10 years. The study's authors called on policymakers to improve diabetes management and access to medical care, and to promote healthy eating and exercise.