The Cost of Being Fat

In the past 30 years, the percentage of American adults who are obese has doubled, driving a sharp rise in such chronic conditions as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

The ramifications for health spending are significant. Annual health costs for obese individuals are more than $2,700 higher than for non-obese people. That adds up to about $190 billion every year. And many of these costs are borne by Medicare, which will spend a half-trillion dollars over the next decade on preventable hospital readmissions alone.

Ken Thorpe and Tommy Thompson in USA Today.

Comments (12)

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  1. Jess says:

    Medicare should start diverting some of it’s resources to health classes and workout program to try and decrease costs over the long term.

    • Johnathan says:

      Would they really be able to create a program large enough to decrease the over-weight population that much to make a significant dent?

      • Jess says:

        It wouldn’t require that much infrastructure most cities in America have community centers where they could host the workout classes/health understanding classes. It would be a small investment for long-term saving.

        • Johnathan says:

          I am not sure that every community center in each town has the capacity to hold all of the Medicare users especially in larger cities. I don’t think it could be functional.

  2. LMB says:

    Don’t forget to mention the other costs of being fat. Being fat hurts your job (physical jobs), family, confidence, relationships, happiness… and that is just a few other costs of being fat.

  3. Sam says:

    I am sad to say it, but no matter how much you educate the public on health and nutrition, it will only make a small dent. As long as people continue to have addictive behaviors and producers continue to craft foods that are addictive in nature and contribute to unhealthy trends, our overweight problem won’t disappear. Reasons why other countries aren’t as obese is because they don’t massively produce processed foods and other types of foods that are highly addictive, which contain high contents of sugars, sodium, etc, etc.

    • Sam says:

      And of course we obesity contributes largely to dependency on health care and rising costs in care.

    • Howard says:

      Supply and Demand. As long as our culture demands a lazy, unhealthy lifestyle, the free market will supply it.

      • Sam says:

        Culture only demands it because it is made available to them. There is a difference there. It’s not as simple as supply and demand in this case. Same goes with illicit drugs.

  4. Studebaker says:

    I can see how someone can gain weight but I don’t understand obesity. At some point I would think people would realize their weight gain is a trend that will not stop and do something to reverse the increase. Even little thing may help: Stop bringing home chips, stop after consuming only one plate of food, ban sweets from the house. Any of this seems normal for someone who realized they have a problem.

    I watch what I eat and I don’t buy some foods I would enjoy eating because I know I don’t need the calories. I understand how some people enjoy food and don’t mind a few extra pounds. But if you’re carrying around 100 extra pounds, that would reduce a lot of enjoyment of life that eating could not replace.

  5. Linda Gorman says:

    Say someone gains weight at 40 and is overweight for 35 years. His health care costs will be $100,000 higher?

    According to MEPS, median annual expense for all people under age 65 was $965 in 2010. Mean was $3,866. Mean for people over 65 was $10,274. Median was $4,513.

    Using the $2,700 number, being obese increases spending by 20 percent for the elderly and 70 percent for those under 65?

    Even though the MEPS estimates include spending on expensive things unlikely to be much influenced by obesity–routine dental care, maternity, trauma, schizophrenia, type I diabetes, kid immunizations, cancer (estimated obesity risk estimates are around 7 percent), autoimmune diseases, dementia, AIDs, plastic surgery, and so on.

    CBO gets lower numbers. So did Bhattacharya and Bundorf, who looked at people covered by employer health insurance and found that the increased annual health spending by the obese was $732. A study of eHealthInsurance premiums showed that individual insurers charged the obese was around $50 more per month.

    Scare numbers, anyone?

  6. CarolT says:

    Tommy Thompson is proof that the Republicans believe in the same pile of quackery, fraud and charlatanism as Obama et al. Such as:

    The Big Lie that obesity is an economic burden to society. Table 1 gives the bottom line: At age 20, smokers’ lifetime health costs will total 220k Euros, obese peoples’ costs will total 250k Euros, and the “Healthy Living” will cost 281k Euros.

    As for the claim that lifestyle intervention reduced diabetes prevalence by 58%: A 20-year randomized controlled study of diet and exercise in 577 adults with impaired glucose tolerance claimed that those in the combined lifestyle intervention groups had a 51% lower incidence of diabetes during the active intervention, a similar figure, and a 43% lower incidence over 20 years. But, “The average annual incidence of diabetes was 7% for intervention participants versus 11% in control participants, with 20-year cumulative incidence of 80% in the intervention groups and 93% in the control group.” And, “There was no significant difference between the intervention and control groups in the rate of first CVD events (HRR 0.98; 95% CI 0.71-1.37), CVD mortality (0.83; 0.48-1.40), and all-cause mortality (0.96; 0.65-1.41).” 80% versus 93% is less than impressive “prevention.” But this is all that their trumpeted lower incidence amounted to!