Right now, across the country, we're engaged in a very worthwhile discussion about health care and health insurance. These are immensely important topics and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to pass health reform this year. But in these broader discussions, it's easy to forget that the best way to become a healthier country with lower health care costs is to prevent Americans from ever becoming sick in the first place.
A great place to prioritize wellness over sickness comes in our prevention of diabetes. Today, 24 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and the epidemic is getting worse. If we don't make some changes soon, the prevalence of this disease will double over the next 30 years. The annual cost of diabetes in our country is expected to reach $338 billion by 2020.
Right now, 57 million Americans are what's considered pre-diabetic. That means they're at risk of developing the full-blown disease because they have high blood pressure or high glucose levels. These statistics include over a million adults and 92,000 youth in Minnesota alone. These are Minnesotans who may find out tomorrow that they've become diabetic. And we know that diabetes can be debilitating, and require costly medical interventions - from daily injections of insulin all the way to amputations.
We know how devastating this disease is from stories we hear when we're back home. Like the story of Liz MacCaskie from Minneapolis. She lost her job in September and is 58 years old--my age. She lives with diabetes, and was just diagnosed with kidney failure. She's paying close to $20,000 a year for her insurance and trying to live on $1,000 a month. If we could help people like Liz avoid the pain and suffering that comes from diabetes, we would be a healthier, more prosperous country.
The good news is that we can help Americans avoid this costly and debilitating disease. Research has shown that pre-diabetics can avoid full-blown diabetes if they receive access to community services like nutrition counseling and gym memberships. These are proven to cut the risk of developing diabetes in half.
I am pleased to be offering legislation to ensure that pre-diabetics have access to services that will stop this disease in its tracks. The Diabetes Prevention Act is based on a National Institute of Health research study done in partnership with the YMCA. The study showed that a 16-week, intensive lifestyle program can prevent diabetes and costs less than $300 per person, per year - that's three hundred dollars. Studies have shown us that this investment can save us money within 2 to 3 years time.
The Minnesota Department of Health has been working with our local YMCAs in Willmar, Rochester and Minneapolis to implement this program. We've got a diverse group of instructors who speak Spanish, Hmong, Somali, and American Sign Language. They include parish nurses, dieticians and community health educators. All of these folks are helping community members to eat healthier and become more physically active. And for the lucky people who get to participate in these programs--it's working. They're losing weight, getting healthier, and avoiding diabetes.
But right now, these efforts are a drop in the bucket because the epidemic is so great. With this bill, we will replicate this cost-effective program and improve the lives of millions of Americans.
This bill will help communities across the country to set up diabetes prevention programs--on Indian reservations, in rural areas and urban centers. And, ultimately, health insurance companies will be reimbursing for these services. Because prevention saves money and it saves lives.
This is an investment in our country's future and I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact this important legislation.