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Yes…Obesity Impacts our Healthcare Spending

The annual health care spend for obesity related disease and health issues has doubled to a whopping $147 Billion in 2008 from $78.5 Billion in 1998. With TV shows like the Biggest Loser and More to Love, it is apparent that obesity and weight issues among the US population are becoming more common. To be specific, 2/3 of our population falls into the overweight category with 1/3 of our population falling into the ‘obese’ category.

Many overweight individuals defend their weight and will state that they are unfairly treated because they do not fall within a weight range that the public deems acceptable. Further, some will even go so far to say that their weight is not the concern of anyone else but themselves.

In these economic times, however, when we are deliberating day after day about the health care system and who will pay for what, I have to ask, isn’t it our concern?

This morning, a newscaster on CNN used the phrase ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Personally, I couldn’t agree more. She also sited some interesting facts about obesity and its impact on the health care system. These stats came from a study published in late July 2009, conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the study, ‘Obese’ is defined as having a BMI of over 30.

When comparing data from 1998 and 2006, here were the findings:

  • 1998 Spend: $78.5 Billion a year; 50% financed by Medicare and Medicaid
  • Increase in obesity rate: 37%
  • Cost of increase: An additional $40 Billion per year to Annual Healthcare Bill
  • Medical cost for Obese Person vs. ‘Normal’ Person: 42% higher or an extra $1,429 per year, per person
  • Medical expenditure % by Type of Insurance in 2008: 8.5% of Medicare spending; 11.8% of Medicaid spending and 12.9% of private insurance spending

Alina Cho of CNN also pointed out that “25% of American young men are too fat to enlist.” She mentioned that “hospitals are buying special wheelchairs and bigger operating tables, revolving doors are being widened and extra bulk on commercial flights is costing the airlines a quarter billion dollars a year in jet fuel.” Additionally, people who are obese get sick more often, miss more work and decrease productivity. In another document presented by the CDC, they state that “medical expenditures for obese workers, depending on severity of obesity and sex, are between 29%–117% greater than expenditures for workers with normal weight.”

When we are looking at the health care system and its costs, we could drive cost down dramatically and save a lot of money if we could decrease the obesity rate. When obesity costs so much, is it really not our concern? Should we spend on prevention and programs that promote healthy living? What do you think?

Related Topics:


“Annual Medical Spending Attributable To Obesity: Payer- And Service-Specific Estimates.”
Health Affairs

“Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States.”
MMWR Recommendations and Reports

OBESITY: Halting the Epidemic by Making Health Easier –

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Fitness, Nutrition Tagged with: , , , ,
  • carol

    i agree totally. the obesity and healthcare issue is a concern for everyone. i read a book earlier this year titled “eat to live” by dr. joel furhman where he states “we are digging our graves with a knife and fork”. i think that is very well put. people have forgotten how to eat! our society has been so consumed with instant gratification that we have forgotten how wonderful and satisfying it is to actually prepare a wholesome meal. and we have done our children the biggest harm. and the really great thing about eating healthy, IT IS SO SIMPLE! and this is an issue that really needs to be out in front! not on the back burner and “will be dealt with later”. later is now! later is yesterday!

  • 37%!!! How can one explain such a rapid increase? I think one possibility is that Baby Boomers plopped into their middle age and have been living too comfortably. The others – diet, lack of exercise, video games, whatever. I mean, 37! That’s a ton.

    I’ll say this, I think we should definitely spend money on eduction regarding healthy living. I mean, we currently spend money on abstinence-only sex-ed that don’t even work, we should do all we can to at least help people slim down a bit. If we are paying 2 billion to get “clunkers” off the road, shouldn’t we drop some dough to help the overall health of the country? Maybe there are already programs out there, but they just don’t get the publicity.

    I think this is a huge problem, especially for children and something should be done about it. The rub is where personal liberty is concerned, but if you could make people self-select with obvious healthy incentives, then they still have free choice.

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  • susan

    Yes, you can be technically obese & still in good health. What concerns me is the drain smokers put on the health care system. An obese person generally does not cause others to become ill. Focusing on the varying degrees of obesity has become a national obssession. The focus should be on health, which does not alsways equate with weight.