May 8 (UPI) -- Young adults in the United States are at a higher risk of complications from diabetes due to poor insurance coverage, new research shows.
The hospitalization rate for diabetic ketoacidosis rose by 90 percent among teenagers in the United States entering adulthood, according to a study published Tuesday in Journal of General Internal Medicine. By contrast, young adults in Canada had a 23 percent hospitalization rate for the condition.
Lack of proper insurance coverage forces young adults to pay pricey out-of-pocket costs for medications.
"We know from other studies that thousands die each year because they're uninsured, and million skip their medications because of costs," Steffie Woolhandler, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and study author, said in a news release.
Teens in the United States have only a slightly higher hospitalization rate than those in Canada. The disparity only begins to emerge when those teens reach age 18, suggesting Canadians continue to receive quality healthcare from their insurance coverage through adulthood.
On the other hand, teens who turn 18 in the United States often either lose insurance coverage or they age out of certain coverage options that provide medications like insulin.
Missing insulin treatments can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, the overproduction of ketones in the blood.
In January, three major insulin manufacturers were grilled by the House energy and commerce committee about soaring drug costs. By March, drugmaker Eli Lilly had announced it was introducing a cheaper version of insulin.
Health insurer Cigna followed suit by cutting the price for co-pay insulin from $41.50 to $25 a month.
Still, the high insulin cost remains a burden for millions of adults in need of the drug for survival.
"Despite Obamacare, millions of Americans are uninsured, and the uninsurance rate is highest among young," said Andrea Christopher, a primary care doctor at the University of Washington and study lead author. "Even with insurance, drug copayments are often so high that young people with diabetes can't afford the insulin they need to survive."