Sen. Collins Urges Senate to Focus on Cures, Costs of Diabetes

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today called on her colleagues to support her bipartisan legislation-the Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplantation Act of 2003 (S. 518)-that would advance the significant research that holds the promise of a cure for diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most significant cost items in most federal health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and S-CHIP.

“Federal support has been vital to the expansion of diabetes programs and services and to dramatic advances in areas such as islet transplantation, which holds great promise in finding a cure for diabetes,” said Collins. “It’s imperative that we fund research to find a cure for diabetes, which imposes a heavy personal toll on families.”

Collins’ legislation would increase the supply of pancreata for islet cell transplantation and research; better coordinate federal efforts and information in this area; encourage the collection and analyzation of the data necessary to move islet cell transplantation from an experimental procedure to a standard therapy covered by insurance; and create a Medicare demonstration project.

A study released by the American Diabetes Association earlier this year estimates that diabetes cost the nation $132 billion last year, and that health spending for people with diabetes is almost double what it would be if they did not have the disease. In Maine, it’s estimated that between 65,000 and 70,000 people are living with diabetes. Diabetes is a devastating, life-long condition that affects people of every age, race and nationality. It is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness in adults, and amputations not related to injury.

“The burden of this disease is particularly heavy for children and young adults with Type 1, or juvenile diabetes,” Collins noted. “Juvenile diabetes is the second most common chronic disease affecting children, and it is a disease they never outgrow.”

During today’s Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, “Juvenile Diabetes: Examining the Personal Toll on Families, Financial Costs to the Health System, and Research Progress Toward a Cure,” Collins heard testimony from health care experts and actress Mary Tyler Moore and children who suffer from juvenile diabetes, including 16-year-old Kate Halasz of Wells, Maine.

Collins is the founder and co-chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus and serves as one of the co-chairs of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s 2003 Children’s Congress.