WASHINGTON, DC -- More than 50 percent of Americans could have diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2010 at a cost of $3.35 trillion during the next decade if current trends continue, according to analysis by UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform & Modernization.

New estimates show diabetes and pre-diabetes will account for an estimated 10 percent of health care spending by the end of the decade at an annual cost of almost $500 billion—up from an estimated $194 billion this year.

The report, “The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead,” produced for this month’s National Diabetes Awareness month, offers some solutions that could improve health and life expectancy while saving up to $250 billion during the next 10 years, but only if programs to prevent and control diabetes are adopted broadly and scaled nationally.

Some of these solutions include lifestyle interventions to combat obesity and prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes, and medication control programs and lifestyle intervention strategies to help improve diabetes control.

“Our new research shows there is a diabetes time bomb ticking in America, but fortunately there are practical steps that can be taken now to defuse it,” said Simon Stevens, executive vice president, UnitedHealth Group, and chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization. “What is now needed is concerted, national, multi-stakeholder action. Making a major impact on the pre-diabetes and diabetes epidemic will require health plans to engage consumers in new ways, while working to scale nationally some of the most promising preventive care models. Done right, the human and economic benefits for the nation could be substantial.”

The annual health care costs in 2009 for a person with diagnosed diabetes averaged approximately $11,700 compared to an average of $4,400 for the remainder of the population, according to new data drawn from 10 million UnitedHealthcare members. The average cost climbs to $20,700 for a person with complications related to diabetes. The report also provides estimates on the prevalence and costs of diabetes, based on health insurance status and payer, and evaluates the impact on worker productivity and costs to employers.