(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Millions of diabetes patients are missing out on Medicare’s nutrition help

Health experts say the little-used benefit represents a lost opportunity for beneficiaries to improve their health


Phil Galewitz
September 10, 2019 10:30AM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.

Louis Rocco has lived with diabetes for decades but, until he met with a registered dietitian in August, he didn’t know eating too much bread was dangerous for him.

“I’m Italian, and I always eat a lot of bread,” he said. After two hour-long visits with a dietitian — including a session at his local grocery store in Philadelphia — Rocco, 90, has noticed a difference in his health.

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“It’s helped bring down my sugar readings,” he said of changes in his diet including eating less bread. “I wish I knew I could have had this help years ago.”

After getting a referral this summer from his doctor, Rocco learned that Medicare covers personal nutritional counseling for people with diabetes or kidney disease.

The estimated 15 million Medicare enrollees with diabetes or chronic kidney disease are eligible for the benefit, but the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and some people with disabilities paid for only about 100,000 recipients to get the counseling in 2017, the latest year billing data is available. The data does not include the 20 million enrollees in private Medicare Advantage plans.

Health experts say the little-used benefit represents a lost opportunity for beneficiaries to improve their health — and for the program to save money by preventing costly complications from the diseases.


Phil Galewitz

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Aging All Salon Diabetes Kaiser Health News Medicare Nutrition Science & Health




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