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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas to Launch $10-million Statewide Initiative to Help Fight Chronic Diabetic Kidney Disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Jun. 05, 2017

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) announced today a new $10-million community investment program to help raise awareness around the prevention and early detection of chronic diabetic kidney disease (CKD)1 and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)2 – two health issues greatly impacting the life span, productivity and quality of life of Texans.

The program coincides with BCBSTX's new community investment plan to focus its resources to meaningfully impact serious public health issues in Texas. The investments will be awarded through BCBSTX's Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) grants. BCBSTX will award up to $2 million yearly to current and new partners that are delivering improved health results in stopping CKD and COPD – or have the ability to build programs to help slow the rise of the two chronic diseases.

As the prevalence of diabetes has exploded to widespread levels in the U.S. – with more than 29 million Americans living with the disease – chronic kidney disease mostly caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, has also soared and continues to grow. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, an estimated 11% of Texans live with diabetes, with many advancing to chronic complications at an alarming rate.

Meanwhile, an estimated 5.5% of Texans suffer from COPD, many who are undiagnosed. According to BCBSTX claims data, many patients enter the health care system at an advanced stage. The American Lung Association reports that roughly 85 to 90% of all COPD cases   are caused by cigarette smoking. Environmental factors that play a role in the development of COPD are:

  • extended exposure to air pollution
  • secondhand smoke and dust, and
  • fumes and chemicals

"We realize daily that as a statewide health insurance company, we are uniquely positioned to address issues affecting the health and wellness of Texans," said Dr. Dan McCoy, president of BCBSTX. "This new initiative  builds on an already successful BCBSTX community investment history that has touched a myriad of public health issues and hundreds of community organizations statewide."

"Understanding that, we made the strategic decision to focus our community investment resources on a long-term effort to impact CKD and COPD because our claims data revealed these two chronic illnesses were not only driving up the cost of care, but also profoundly affecting the health and quality of life of thousands of Texans," McCoy continued.

Interestingly, CKD and COPD represent a tale of two chronic conditions affecting different populations of Texans in opposite ends of the state.  In the southwest and southeast regions of Texas, BCBSTX claims data show higher incidents of diabetes largely affecting Latinos and African-Americans and in the North region, Caucasians are predominately affected with COPD.

Last year, BCBSTX claims data showed a 107% increase in diabetes with chronic conditions. If the trend continues, by 2021 the prevalence of BCBSTX members with diabetic complications will grow from 3 percent to 7%. CKD is the leading cause of kidney failure.

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys no longer work in a way that sustains life, requiring dialysis or transplant. In 1982, diabetes accounted for 27% of patients with kidney failure. BCBSTX data showed that in 2012, that percentage had nearly doubled to 47%.

The Texas Kidney Foundation reports that Texas has the third largest number of CKD patients and the second highest amount spent for CKD in the U.S. An estimated 1 in 7 South Texas residents are affected by this disease and another 1 in 5 adults are at high risk for developing symptoms.

Cases of COPD are highest in the North region of Texas and affect more women, with the highest death among Caucasian women. COPD patients tend to make less than $25,000 yearly and are more likely to have insurance, but report that cost is a barrier to access. The data also show that COPD patients tend to have a history of asthma and smoking (11% of COPD patients in Texas are still active smokers).

Nationally, about 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD – the third most common cause of death in the country. However, if found early, the chances of reducing further damage to the lungs improve.

"Our new approach to community investment is a more focused strategy intended to deliver maximum results against CKD and COPD," said Dr. Esteban López, Chief Medical Officer BCBSTX. "This initiative will require stronger and more sustained collaborations with our existing partners, but also with those organizations that have been successful in developing programs to fight CKD and COPD. With this program, our goal is to demonstrate that we can make a measurable difference in improving the health of Texans. This new strategy also aligns with our Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program."

Launched in 2011, HKHF started as a three-year initiative designed to improve the health and wellness of at least one million children through community investments. The program was extended as BCBSTX's ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of the children and families across Texas. To date, the HKHF program – which centers on nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention and management and supporting safe environments – has helped nearly three million children.

BCBSTX will begin considering proposals for our Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grants on June 5. For more information on how to apply for a HKHF grant, send us an email or submit an application .