Who Pays For Obesity?

A common starting point is the assertion that those who are obese impose higher health costs on the rest of the population — a statement which is then taken to justify public policy interventions…We will argue that the existing literature on these topics suggests that obese people on average do bear the costs and benefits of their eating and exercise habits. We begin by estimating the lifetime costs of obesity. We then discuss the extent to which private health insurance pools together obese and thin, whether health insurance causes obesity, and whether being fat might actually cause positive externalities for those who are not obese. If public policy to reduce obesity is not justified on the grounds of external costs imposed on others, then the remaining potential justification would need to be on the basis of helping people to address problems of ignorance or self-control that lead to obesity…

Oops. There goes the whole reason for Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban and his call for a soda tax. The study. HT: Jason Shafrin.

Comments (10)

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  1. Gabriel Odom says:

    Since obese people have lower life expectancies, wouldn’t that mean they collect less Social Security? There are already studies showing that obese people are cheaper to care for over their lifetimes because they die sooner. Sounds like the only people paying more for the obese are the obese themselves.

    I guess it’s too much to ask that people should just be able to do what they want.

  2. Tucker says:

    Well, I do think that we need to make the experience of being obese as “undesirable” as possible. That status is just bad in general, and so making it seem undesirable implies that people are going to try to be healthier!

  3. Tom says:

    Obesity presents much more diverse problems than the perceived external costs, which may or may not be the case depending on the study you view. The point is that obesity is an epidemic that reflects a culture of irresponsible consumption and ignorance. However, I doubt that banning large sodas on the public would deter this complex problem.

  4. Patel says:

    It is hard to fully study the impact of obesity on society, even so, I do feel bad for obese people who have it hard.

  5. Ryan says:

    Yeah, well, I don’t think many people on either side really thought Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban was a good idea to begin with. It may have good intentions, but we all know that banning a product is not a way to solve that product’s adverse effect on people. Look at how well prohibition worked decades ago.

  6. Cornelius Sutton says:

    Banning soda will not change people’s attitudes towards food/drink. This is a lifestyle problem, not a substance availability problem. There are plenty of healthy and thin people who have access to soda pop and choose not to drink it or choose to consume it sparingly.

  7. Desai says:

    I am guessing this is going to be hard for anyone really. I know that obese individuals usually don’t have a lot of income, and so charging them higher for their health status really targets them into further poverty. This I think is disturbing!

  8. Sandeep says:

    Lets get real, the soda tax was put in place to garner more revenue for the government, it has little to do with improving public health.

  9. Sam says:

    As long as consumers keep indulging in processed and fast foods and choose not to learn the basics of nutrition and be responsible over their own diet, no public policy is going to do much of anything to curb our obesity problem. Luckily, healthy eating habits along with exercise are beginning to become greater mainstream ideas, which are causing consumers to demand better quality foods. However, we have gone so far in the bad direction, that it’s going to take a few more decades until we see substantive change.

  10. Lee says:

    I don’t wanna pay for obesity, I wanna pay for skinny super models!