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Weight Loss Could Even Cut Health Care Costs

Posted by wmagnus On July - 27 - 2009

As the national debate rages about how best to change healthcare funding to serve the greatest number of people with the greatest benefit, the public health journal Health Affairs has published a study that examines the costs of healthcare related to obesity. For those that familiar with the health effects of obesity, the results are no surprise. What follows is a little wonky but interesting.

The study examined overall healthcare spending amongst all payers including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The results of previous studies were examined and researchers found that since 1998, the burden of obesity related care and the diseases associated with obesity have increased most for private insurers. Obesity has become less the domain of the disabled and poor and has instead become a disease of the general population.

Every year, the researchers found that the difference between the cost of caring for the obese and the cost of caring for normal weight individuals was rising. By 2006, it cost 41.5% more to care for an obese person than a normal weight person. That’s pretty significant. The costs of inpatient care (that means hospital care) were notably higher than for normal weight persons as well. The math is pretty beefy, but their full regressions can be viewed here.

The take home as we as a nation look to find the savings in healthcare system it is worth considering that removing obesity from the loop would reduce the overall cost of healthcare in the US by about 10%. While it isn’t entirely that simple, less obesity clearly means lower healthcare costs overall. When this is a burden we as a nation all share whether we insure publicly or privately, reducing obesity can certainly help out wallets shink less. It turns out that maintaining a healthy weight is not only good for you, it works for everybody.

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