CMS’ coverage of HbA1c testing for diabetes screening is a good start–But we can do more: Although recognized by the ADA as an accepted means to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes, HbA1c was not recognized or reimbursed for this purpose by CMS until November of 2023.

In November, the Facilities for Medicare & Medicaid Providers (CMS) introduced coverage adjustments for Medicare funds underneath its Doctor Charge Schedule (PFS). Included in these adjustments was an replace numerous specialists imagine was a very long time coming: the brand new proposal now contains protection of hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) testing for diabetes and prediabetes screening. (1) Lauded by many, the American Medical Affiliation referred to as the addition “a major step ahead.” (2) The change was in response to issues raised by medical teams, together with the Diabetes Advocacy Alliance.

What’s HbA1c, and why is it vital for diabetes screening?

HbA1c testing is a single non-fasting blood check that assesses a affected person’s common blood sugar ranges over time, and has lengthy been used as a measure of illness administration for people who’ve been recognized with diabetes. Sufferers with recognized diabetes sometimes have their HbA1c measured twice yearly to evaluate the extent of management of their illness. (3) Nonetheless, starting in 2010, HbA1c was acknowledged by the American Diabetes Affiliation (ADA) tips as an accepted technique by which diabetes might be recognized and to establish sufferers with prediabetes. (4) Since it may be measured in a single non-fasting specimen, HbA1c is a robust screening instrument to diagnose diabetes–particularly kind 2, which regularly develops in maturity and impacts nearly all of (90-95%) America’s 38 million people with diabetes. (5) Though acknowledged by the ADA as an accepted means to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes, HbA1c was not acknowledged or reimbursed for this function by CMS till November of 2023.

Whereas a fasting blood sugar check has lengthy been a main technique of screening for diabetes and prediabetes, HbA1c and fasting glucose could give considerably completely different solutions in particular people and the measurement of each gives a greater view of a person’s metabolic state. (6) Different research have demonstrated extra utility in HbA1c testing, reminiscent of the flexibility to foretell expensive micro-and macro-vascular medical problems which will manifest in sufferers down the road, finally permitting for earlier interventions and due to this fact reducing the price of care over time. (7)

Although it may be as efficient as fasting blood sugar testing, HbA1c testing as a screening measure for diabetes will not be a alternative for this check. To offer probably the most complete take a look at a affected person’s well being, and craft an efficient remedy plan, a doctor ought to order each assessments. CMS’ protection of HbA1c testing as a screening measure for diabetes and prediabetes remains to be a step forward–so lengthy because it takes care to not reduce the vital position fasting blood sugar W testing performs in affected person care. Each assessments have medical utility and are important in getting sufferers recognized and remedy supplied as quickly as potential.

How diabetes screening evolves illness administration

Diabetes is a situation that’s manageable with life-style adjustments and, in some instances, reversible. Sure modifications to an individual’s food plan or train routine can enormously affect their well being. However sufferers can’t handle what they do not know they’ve. Whereas roughly 98 million American adults have prediabetes–an elevation of blood sugar ranges not but excessive sufficient to be diagnosable as kind 2 diabetes–more than 80% of those people have no idea they’ve it. (8) As prediabetes can put an individual at elevated danger of kind 2 diabetes, coronary heart illness, or stroke, you will need to guarantee these people are conscious of their excessive blood sugar ranges as quickly as potential.

A few of these sufferers could also be unaware due to boundaries to care that stop them from accessing screenings. Analysis has proven racial and ethnic minority and low-income grownup populations constantly stay at the next danger of kind 2 diabetes. (9) These populations are additionally impacted by social determinants of well being, like financial instability or lack of insurance coverage protection, which might make receiving wanted care troublesome to acquire. On this method, CMS’ protection of HbA1c and different screening assessments is an especially optimistic change. Extra protection could cease these sufferers from residing with an undiagnosed situation for years, permitting them to obtain remedy and start life-style adjustments to enhance their well being sooner.

Figuring out at-risk people earlier than a prediabetes analysis

But there’s nonetheless extra that may be executed. Whereas HbA1c testing has been commonplace for years when diagnosing and treating diabetes and different metabolic circumstances, sure different markers have proven to be efficient in not solely figuring out danger of diabetes, however different associated circumstances, like heart problems and power kidney illness. These markers could not but be mainstream lab assessments, regardless of (being broadly prevalent amongst people.

One such check is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a situation that forestalls the physique from responding appropriately to insulin, making an individual unable to make use of glucose from the blood for power. It’s typically the primary stage in metabolic abnormalities that finally could evolve, with age and weight achieve, to prediabetes after which to kind 2 diabetes. A current evaluation of 6,000 younger adults, ages 18-44, discovered 40% have insulin resistance. (10) Amongst specialists, it’s considered a precursor not solely to the event of (diabetes, but additionally different cardiovascular occasions, like doubtlessly deadly coronary heart assaults or strokes.

Sure new research have emphasised the flexibility of insulin resistance to establish a affected person’s danger of diabetes, even when their fasting blood sugar check is reported in a standard vary. (11,12) This analysis additionally discovered that the mix of HbA1c testing with insulin resistance could be a highly effective prognostic instrument for danger evaluation, successfully figuring out sufferers more likely to develop prediabetes and diabetes earlier than these circumstances have grow to be evident by laboratory testing. Moreover, quite a few different research have examined (and proceed to look at) the worth of utilizing mixtures of glycemic biomarkers like fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, and others to enhance danger evaluation of cardiometabolic outcomes. (13)

As sure biomarkers and, extra importantly, mixtures of biomarkers can result in enhancements in danger prediction for heart problems and diabetes, increasing protection and availability of testing past HbA1c will likely be key to enhancing the well being of People nationwide. Whereas the inclusion of HbA1c testing is a step in the proper route, there’s a lot extra that may be executed. Sustaining the supply of fasting blood sugar testing together with HbA1c, and widening the adoption of different assessments to evaluate insulin resistance, will likely be essential to figuring out people in want of remedy as early as potential. And the earlier these folks grow to be conscious of their circumstances, the earlier they will start managing them.


With diabetes impacting so many people throughout America, it’s laborious to see higher availability of screening instruments as something however a web optimistic. Nonetheless, we will and may do extra. Offering diagnostic insights to sufferers is extraordinarily vital. With out the information supplied by lab testing, physicians will lack the entire image of a person’s well being wanted to craft a care plan. And sufferers could lack the motivation to hunt care if they’re unaware of their danger, doubtlessly worsening underlying circumstances and making it extra doubtless they’ll undergo irreversible hurt.

The inclusion of HbA1c testing as a diabetic screening measure by CMS will definitely profit many at-risk people. However broadening protection to incorporate biomarkers like insulin resistance will enable physicians to check for mixtures with the perfect means to foretell future danger, together with of different cardiometabolic circumstances. Like with so many ailments, offering remedy as quickly as potential is essential to giving sufferers the perfect care. Testing early gives the perception wanted to embark on the subsequent steps of a care journey some at-risk people could also be unable to lengthen.

The analysis has been clear. The instruments to foretell danger are right here, and rising in sensitivity and specificity. Why not make the most of them to the perfect of their means, and get extra People with undiagnosed prediabetes screened to encourage them to take motion?


(1.) Calendar yr (CY) 2024 Medicare Doctor Charge Schedule remaining rule. Accessed December 14, 2023. calendar-year-cy-2024-medicare-physician-fee-schedule-final-rule.

(2.) American Medical Affiliation. Pay schedule accommodates AMA advocacy wins on telehealth, diabetes. American Medical Affiliation. Revealed September 29, 2023. Accessed December 14, 2023. https:// pay-schedule-contains-ama-advocacy-wins-telehealth-diabetes.

(3.) CDC. All about your A1C. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Revealed September 19, 2023. Accessed December 14, 2023. https://

(4.) American Diabetes Affiliation. Analysis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2010;33 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S62-9. doi:10.2337/dc10-S062.

(5.) CDC. Kind 2 diabetes. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Revealed November 12, 2023. Accessed December 14, 2023. https://

(6.) Hilborne LH, Bi C, Radcliff J, Kroll MH, Kaufman HW. Contributions of Glucose and Hemoglobin A1c Measurements in Diabetes Screening. Am J Clin Pathol. 2022;6;157(1):1-4. doi:10.1093/ajcp/aqab106.

(7.) Jesudason DR, Dunstan Ok, Leong D,Wittert GA. Macrovascular danger and diagnostic standards for kind 2 diabetes: implications for the usage of FPG and HbA(1c) for cost-effective screening. Diabetes Care. 2003;26(2):485-90. doi:10.2337/diacare.26.2.485.

(8.) CDC. Prediabetes–your probability to stop kind 2 diabetes. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Revealed November 12, 2023. Accessed December 14, 2023.

(9.) Connecting SDOH and HRSN to prediabetes and kind 2 diabetes. Nationwide DPP CoverageToolkit. Revealed July 14, 2022. Accessed December 14, 2023. https:// connecting-sdoh-and-hrsns-to-prediabetes-and-type-2-diabetes/.

(10.) Jones A. UAB researchers discover that 40 % of younger American adults have insulin resistance and cardiovascular danger components. UAB Information, Revealed September 20, 2021. Accessed December 14, 2023. https://www.uab.edU/information/analysis/merchandise/12289-uab-researchers-find-that-40-percent-of-young-american-adults-have -insulin-resistance-and-cardiovascular-risk-factors.

(11.) Rooney MR, Daya NR, Leong A, et al. Prognostic worth of insulin resistance and hyperglycemia biomarkers for long-term dangers of cardiometabolic outcomes. J Diabetes Issues. 2023:37(91:108583. doi:10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2023.108583.

(12.) Meigs JB, Porneala B, Leong A, et al. Simultaneous Consideration of HbA1c and Insulin Resistance Improves Threat Evaluation in White People at Elevated Threat for Future Kind 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2020;43(8):e90-e92. doi:10.2337/dc20-0718.

(13.) Bachmann KN, WangTJ. Biomarkers of heart problems: contributions to danger prediction in people with diabetes. Diabetologia. 2018;61 (5):987-995. doi:10.1007/s00125-017-4442-9.

Michael J. McPhaul, MD is a Medical Advisor at Quest Diagnostics and an knowledgeable on the interconnection of cardiometabolic problems reminiscent of insulin resistance, diabetes and CVD. In his position at Quest, Dr. McPhaul drives the event of latest instruments and diagnostic assessments that –assist within the complete care of sufferers with prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes mellitus, in addition to the early identification of those illnesses. Dr. McPhaul earned his medical diploma from the College of Texas Southwestern Medical College. He accomplished his internship and residency in inner medication at Parkland Memorial Hospital, adopted by a analysis fellowship in biochemistry at Stanford College Medical Heart. Dr. McPhaul is board-certified by American Board of Inside Drugs. He’s an lively member of a number of skilled societies, together with the American Society of Medical Investigation, American Affiliation of Medical Endocrinology, Endocrine Society, American Diabetes Affiliation, Southern Society for Medical Investigation, and the American Federation for Medical Analysis.

Desk 1. The A1C check measures your common
blood glucose for the previous two to a few months.
The A1C check can be utilized to diagnose diabetes
or assist sufferers know the way their remedy
plan is working. From American Diabetes
Affiliation: Diabetes Analysis & Checks | ADA
Consequence              A1C
Regular         Lower than 5.7%
Prediabetes     5.7% to six.4%
Diabetes       6.5% or increased
Determine 1: An estimated 97.6 million adults aged
18 years or older had prediabetes in 2021.
CDC Nationwide Diabetes Statistics
65+ years       27.2%
45-64 years     37.5%
18-44 years     32.8%
Be aware: Desk produced from pie chart.
Determine 2: The next proportion of males (53.2%)
than ladies (44.3%) had prediabetes, primarily based
on their fasting glucose or A1C degree.
Ladies     44.3%
Males       53.2%
Be aware: Desk produced from pie chart.
Determine 3: Prevalence of prediabetes (primarily based on
fasting glucose or A1C degree) was comparable amongst
all racial and ethnic teams and training ranges.
Hispanic   15%
Asian       5.8%
White      61.8%
Be aware: Desk produced from pie chart.
Reference: Nationwide Diabetes Statistics Report. Revealed November 29,2023.
Accessed January 5, 2024.

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