The annual healthcare spends 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? Recently, 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 percent financed by Medicare and Medicaid
- Increase in obesity rate: 37 percent
- Cost of increase: An additional $40 Billion per year to Annual Healthcare Bill
- Medical cost for Obese Person vs. ‘Normal’ Person: 42 percent higher or an extra $1,429 per year, per person
- Medical expenditure percent by Type of Insurance in 2008: 8.5 percent of Medicare spending; 11.8 percent of Medicaid spending and 12.9 percent of private insurance spending
Alina Cho of CNN also pointed out that “25 percent 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 percent to 117 percent 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?
- “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 
Originally published on SheerBalance