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More diabetics in Greater Lehigh Valley means potential higher employer costs, report says

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The Greater Lehigh Valley has more people of working age who have Type 2 diabetes compared to the rest of the state and country, which can potentially cost employers more for health care, according to a new report from the Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare.

Between 2014 and 2015, the percentage of people between 18 and 64 with Type 2 diabetes increased slightly in the Greater Lehigh Valley, as defined as Allentown, Bethlehem and Reading, according to the statewide study.

In 2015, the percentage of people with Type 2 diabetes between the ages of 36 and 64 in Reading was 42.2 percent and 41.6 percent in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area, compared to 42.2 percent in Pennsylvania and 45 percent in the U.S.

“Diabetes is a major factor in employer spending for medical care, and its impact on other conditions can further exacerbate the health status of employees,” said Tom Croyle, president of LVBCH, a nonprofit coalition of employers that seeks to provide access to quality, affordable health care to their employees.

Professional inpatient charges were highest for patients with Type 2 diabetes with a complication of hypoglycemia in 2015. The costs in Reading and Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton were more than double those for Type 2 diabetes patients. Reading had the highest cost ($9,041) compared to the state ($5,714) and U.S. ($5,927). The cost was $4,656 in Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton.

The percentage of people with Type 2 diabetes throughout the state was also more likely than those nationwide to be obese, 25.3 percent compared to 19.5 percent nationally. In the Lehigh Valley, the percentage was 20 percent; it was 26.7 percent in Reading.

Sanofi US, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Bridgewater, N.J., and with facilities in Swiftwater in the Poconos, sponsored the report.

Key findings:

  • Reading had a higher level of commercially insured Type 2 diabetes patients with an A1C level above 9 percent than the nation in 2015, 20 percent as compared to 16.7 percent.
  • Allentown (20 percent), Reading (26.7 percent) and Pennsylvania (25.3 percent) had higher shares of Type 2 diabetes patients with a co-morbidity of obesity than the rest of the U.S. (19.5 percent) in 2015.
  • Although the average number of inpatient diabetes mellitus cases decreased from 2013 to 2014 in all of the profiled markets except Scranton, they still eclipsed the U.S. mean by notable margins.
  • Average annual inpatient professional charges for Type 2 diabetes patients with hypoglycemia were higher than those for Type 2 diabetes patients overall in all of the profiled markets; the same held true for Type 2 diabetes patients with a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, nephropathy or peripheral artery disease compared with type 2 diabetes patients overall.

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