Sooner or later, the bill for long-term complications comes due. By that time, people who have gotten the disease in their 40s or 50s may have aged into Medicare coverage.
And as the disease increasingly strikes younger adults and even children, many could lose their jobs due to complications such as blindness, stroke or amputation, becoming uninsurable long before the Medicare age of 65. Without employer-sponsored health insurance, their preexisting conditions could render individual insurance unaffordable.
For the growing crop of youngsters diagnosed with diabetes, that could be devastating when they leave home and lose parental coverage.
"Every person I take care of will eventually be uninsured," says Dr. Francine R. Kaufman, head of endocrinology and metabolism at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and a USC pediatrics professor.