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THE DISEASE IS A BURDEN ON HEALTH INSURER BUDGETS

Diabetes on the rise

DIABETES is on the rise around the world and Slovakia is no exception. While this metabolic disease worsens the quality of life of those who suffer from it, it also significantly increases the bills that health insurers cover to treat it.

DIABETES is on the rise around the world and Slovakia is no exception. While this metabolic disease worsens the quality of life of those who suffer from it, it also significantly increases the bills that health insurers cover to treat it.

A glossary of words as well as an exercise related to this article are also published online.

“Diabetes is considered to be the non-infectious epidemic of the third millennium,” said physician Katarína Černá, as cited by the Pravda daily. “The International Diabetes Federation estimates the occurrence of diabetes in the world in 2010 at 285 million people and assumes that the number of people suffering from diabetes will increase to 430 million by 2030.”

In Slovakia, the number of patients treated for diabetes increased by 17.6 percent, or 60,000 during the last 10 years, based on data of the National Centre of Medical Information (NCZI). Just in the last year, as many as 25,160 new cases were diagnosed, increasing the total number to 342,124. Of these, 159,077 were men and 183,047 were women. Registered diabetics made up 6.3 percent of the population.

It is estimated that additionally over 100,000 cases of diabetes remain undiagnosed, which are not being treated. However, in Slovakia only diabetics registered with specialised offices of diabetologists, i.e. doctors specialised in treating diabetes, are included in the official statistics. Diabetics treated by general practitioners are not included.

Poor eating habits and minimal body movement are seen as the main causes of increasing diabetes in Slovakia. Untreated diabetes can cause serious long-term complications, including cardiovascular disease and diseases of kidneys, eyes and other organs.

Health insurers in Slovakia pay millions of euros annually for treatment of diabetes. The biggest health insurer, the state-owned Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (VšZP), allocates over €72 million annually for diabetes treatment, making this group of patients its second most expensive. VšZP’s total number of clients makes up over 64 percent of the population and, compared to the other two insurers, its share of patients with higher medical bills (due to age and diseases) is bigger.

“The share of treatment costs depends on whether we evaluate the health care provided, i.e. care provided by diabetologists, or whether it also includes potential complications, which are usually solved in hospitals or whether it is an evaluation of prescription of medicines and medical aids,” Petra Balážová, spokesperson of VšZP, told The Slovak Spectator. “But it can be said unambiguously that the group of patients treated for diabetes is the second most costly group from the viewpoint of prescription of medical aid, and equally it belongs to significant groups of patients in terms of costs related to prescription of medicine and dietetic food and supplements.”

The remaining two health insurers allocate 2-3 percent of their health-care costs to diabetes treatment. For the health insurer Union (which covers 8.4 percent of the population), these costs amounted to €3.8 million in 2011 and €4 million in 2012, making up about 2 percent of its total health-care costs. The insurer Dôvera, with a 27.49-percent market share, paid over €15 million to treat diabetics during the first nine months of 2013, or roughly 3 percent of its total health-care costs.

All three health insurance companies run various programmes which help people suffering from diabetes and obesity and support prevention and a healthy lifestyle. The Health Ministry is currently working on the National Diabetologic Programme. The deadline for its implementation is the end of 2013.

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