Nearly 10 percent of health spending for obesity

Jul 27, 2009 By LAURAN NEERGAARD , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- Obesity's not just dangerous, it's expensive. New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who's normal weight. Overall obesity-related health spending reaches $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago, says the study published Monday by the journal Health Affairs.

The higher expense reflects the costs of treating , heart disease and other ailments far more common for the overweight, concluded the study by government scientists and the nonprofit research group RTI International.

RTI health economist Eric Finkelstein offers a blunt message for lawmakers trying to revamp the system: "Unless you address obesity, you're never going to address rising ."

Obesity-related conditions now account for 9.1 percent of all medical spending, up from 6.5 percent in 1998, the study concluded.

Health economists have long warned that obesity is a driving force behind the rise in health spending. For example, diabetes costs the nation $190 billion a year to treat, and excess weight is the single biggest risk factor for developing diabetes. Moreover, obese diabetics are the hardest to treat, with higher rates of foot ulcers and amputations, among other things.

The new study's look at per-capita spending may offer a shock to the wallets of people who haven't yet heeded straight health warnings.

"Health care costs are dramatically higher for people who are obese and it doesn't have to be that way," said Jeff Levi of the nonprofit Trust for America's Health, who wasn't involved in the new research.

"We have ways of changing behavior and changing those health outcomes so that we don't have to deal with the medical consequences of obesity," added Levi, who advocates community-based programs that promote physical activity and better nutrition.

About a third of adult Americans are obese, and the rate rose 37 percent between 1998 and 2006, the years covered by Monday's study.

Prescription drugs for obesity-related illnesses account for much of the rise in spending. Medicare spends about $600 more per year on prescriptions for an obese beneficiary than a normal-weight one, the study found.

---

On the Net:

Health Affairs: http://www.healthaffairs.org

RTI International: http://www.rti.org

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Study reveals significantly increased risk of stillbirth in males

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Obesity risks increase after menopause

Oct 25, 2007

Postmenopausal women are at an age when the incidence and exacerbation of the chronic health conditions associated with obesity become more prevalent. A new article published in Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nu ...

Is the obesity epidemic exaggerated?

Feb 01, 2008

Last week, the UK health secretary declared that we are in a grip of an obesity epidemic, but does the evidence stack up? Researchers in this week’s BMJ debate the issue.

Recommended for you

Health care organizations see value of telemedicine

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Health care organizations are developing and implementing telemedicine programs, although many have yet to receive reimbursement, according to a report published by Foley & Lardner.

Before you go... are you in denial about death?

12 hours ago

For most of us, death conjures up strong feelings. We project all kinds of fears onto it. We worry about it, dismiss it, laugh it off, push it aside or don't think about it at all. Until we have to. Of course, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RFC
not rated yet Jul 27, 2009
Everyone knows (or thinks they know) that obesity causes increased health costs (although I'm surprised it's just 10% in this study). In my office, the tolerance for obese people is wearing thin, as health insurance goes up every year. The same thing has happened to smokers (though the fact that smokers have to pay more under most policies seems to offset the anger a bit).

At some point, it's gonna get really ugly to be obese. Every now and then, you'll hear about someone who wasn't hired or promoted because they were fat. My prediction is that if the economy doesn't improve and health costs keep rising, adverse employment actions will seem almost quaint in comparison with the public anger that develops.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.