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Are there exercise programs for patients with diabetes covered by insurance or that are tax deductible?

Yes, although those that are tax deductible are not specifically aimed at diabetes and they are not government programs in themselves. Recently, in order to help to combat the growing amount of obesity and lack of exercise that now put Americans at risk of a number of diseases, including diabetes, the U.S. government has made provisions for a tax deduction on personal federal income tax for weight reduction programs when this is performed for specific medical indications. Losing a few pounds for your upcoming high school reunion (i.e., for your general appearance and overall health) is not included! Also, general gym or spa membership dues are not allowed under this credit. Although the program is specifically for weight reduction, exercise is an important component of weight maintenance and aids in weight reduction and is therefore included. The actual conditions of the program are contained in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publication #502 that can be accessed at hsainsider.com/pdf7treasurypublications/TreasuryPub_23.pdf. Please see the information on pages 13 and 15 of this publication. It provides considerable detail on what is eligible for tax credit. This is a tax credit rather than a tax deduction, the important difference being that the entire cost of the program can be paid from your taxes. A very nice guide on how to actually prepare a submission to the 1RS for the tax credit can be found at ezinearticles.eom/PI.R.S.-Tax-Credit-for-Weight-Loss-and-Smoke-Cessation- Programs&id=345917. Of course, commonsense rules apply. The cost of a program of twice-weekly treadmill workouts or spinning sessions as part of a class at your local spa or health club is likely to be found to be acceptable, while the cost of membership in a darts or pool league at your favorite local bar is not. Whether the exercise involved can reasonably be expected to lead to weight loss or improved physical fitness is the issue that can determine its eligibility for a tax deduction. However, the IRS will not ask you to prove that you actually lost weight or expect you to produce copies of your split times on the stopwatch at your local track! In addition to the information available from the IRS link noted above, you can also get information from your qualified tax preparer.

There is also increasing awareness among employers that a healthy, physically active staff is a more productive staff who require fewer days off work for health- related reasons.

Some health insurance programs will, with supporting documentation from your doctor, cover the costs of certain approved exercise or fitness interventions for certain categories of members. Details of these can be obtained from the administrator of your company health plan or from the healthcare provider staff themselves. There is also increasing awareness among employers that a healthy, physically active staff is a more productive staff who require fewer days off work for health-related reasons. Such enlightened employers sometimes provide incentives for their staff to join local healthcare facilities and occasionally provide such facilities themselves. They may sponsor some employees to participate in competitive athletic events or activities, sometimes to a high level of accomplishment. Programs such as this will be unique to each company and you will need to make inquiries about them from your human resources department.

How do I access resources for people with diabetes from different cultures or creeds or who do not speak English?

Diabetes disproportionately affects those in our society who are non-Caucasian minorities and often it is harder to ensure that high quality care is provided. For example, only half as many Hispanic Americans with diabetes are currently achieving treatment goals for diabetes set by the American Diabetes Association as are achieved by Caucasian Americans. In some cases the reasons are cultural, in others economic, and in other cases they result from language and communication barriers. There is increasing interest in providing tools and resources to overcome these barriers and rectify these disparities. Many guides and booklets, such as diabetic recipe books, are also published in Spanish and other common languages. A number of diabetic cookbooks are available for different types of cuisine. Your local medical center will often provide translation services for visits with the doctor, nurse educator, or dietitian. These professionals often have materials in different languages to give you. Your local chapter of the American Diabetes Association or Juvenile Diabetes Foundation is generally a good place to start, as they often respond with commitment and energy to support the needs of particular groups who are represented in their local area. The website lacountyparks.org/cmsl_033139.pdf also provides a listing of diabetes resources available for non-English- speaking people, while the Joslin Diabetes Center offers an innovative Chinese-English diabetes website at aadi.joslin.harvard.edu/.

Pharmaceutical representatives often provide tremendous support to the efforts of healthcare professionals in identifying resources to improve patients' access to care. Their commitment to patient care frequently extends beyond ensuring the availability of their companies' medications and they will usually go to great lengths to obtain helpful information. If you are taking a particular branded medication, it is not unreasonable to suggest to your doctor or diabetes educator that the representative of that company might help to find the information or resources that you need. They are often very happy to do so upon request.

 
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