Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Study: Obesity adds $190 billion in health costs


 

Poll

Question: Are obese people costing you money?

Options:

yes

no

I don't know

other


Only group members can vote in this poll.

Total Votes: 32

View Results

updated 2 hours 41 minutes ago

U.S. hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients. The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking. Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.

The nation’s rising rate of obesity has been well-chronicled. But businesses, governments and individuals are only now coming to grips with the costs of those extra pounds, many of which are even greater than believed only a few years ago: The additional medical spending due to obesity is double previous estimates and exceeds even those of smoking, a new study shows.

Many of those costs have dollar signs in front of them, such as the higher health insurance premiums everyone pays to cover those extra medical costs. Other changes, often cost-neutral, are coming to the built environment in the form of wider seats in public places from sports stadiums to bus stops.

The startling economic costs of obesity, often borne by the non-obese, could become the epidemic's second-hand smoke. Only when scientists discovered that nonsmokers were developing lung cancer and other diseases from breathing smoke-filled air did policymakers get serious about fighting the habit, in particular by establishing nonsmoking zones. The costs that smoking added to Medicaid also spurred action. Now, as economists put a price tag on sky-high body mass indexes (BMIs), policymakers as well as the private sector are mobilizing to find solutions to the obesity epidemic.

"As committee chairmen, Cabinet secretaries, the head of Medicare and health officials see these really high costs, they are more interested in knowing, 'what policy knob can I turn to stop this hemorrhage?'" said Michael O’Grady of the National Opinion Research Center, co-author of a new report for the Campaign to End Obesity, which brings together representatives from business, academia and the public health community to work with policymakers on the issue.

<snip>

The U.S. health care reform law of 2010 allows employers to charge obese workers 30 percent to 50 percent more for health insurance if they decline to participate in a qualified wellness program. The law also includes carrots and celery sticks, so to speak, to persuade Medicare and Medicaid enrollees to see a primary care physician about losing weight, and funds community demonstration programs for weight loss.

Such measures do not sit well with all obese Americans. Advocacy groups formed to "end size discrimination" argue that it is possible to be healthy "at every size," taking issue with the findings that obesity necessarily comes with added medical costs.

The reason for denominating the costs of obesity in dollars is not to stigmatize plus-size Americans even further. Rather, the goal is to allow public health officials as well as employers to break out their calculators and see whether programs to prevent or reverse obesity are worth it.

<snip>

Because obesity raises the risk of a host of medical conditions, from heart disease to chronic pain, the obese are absent from work more often than people of healthy weight. The most obese men take 5.9 more sick days a year; the most obese women, 9.4 days more. Obesity-related absenteeism costs employersas much as $6.4 billion a year, health economists led by Eric Finkelstein of Duke University calculated.

Even when poor health doesn’t keep obese workers home, it can cut into productivity, as they grapple with pain or shortness of breath or other obstacles to working all-out. Such obesity-related “presenteeism,” said Finkelstein, is also expensive. The very obese lose one month of productive work per year, costing employers an average of $3,792 per very obese male worker and $3,037 per female. Total annual cost of presenteeism due to obesity: $30 billion.

Decreased productivity can reduce wages, as employers penalize less productive workers. Obesity hits workers' pocketbooks indirectly, too: Numerous studies have shown that the obese are less likely to be hired and promoted than their svelte peers are. Women in particular bear the brunt of that, earning about 11 percent less than women of healthy weight, health economist John Cawley of Cornell University found. At the average weekly U.S. wage of $669 in 2010, that's a $76 weekly obesity tax.

The medical costs of obesity have long been the focus of health economists. A just-published analysis finds that it raises those costs more than thought.

Obese men rack up an additional $1,152 a year in medical spending, especially for hospitalizations and prescription drugs, Cawley and Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University reported in January in the Journal of Health Economics. Obese women account for an extra $3,613 a year. Using data from 9,852 men (average BMI: 28) and 13,837 women (average BMI: 27) ages 20 to 64, among whom 28 percent were obese, the researchers found even higher costs among the uninsured: annual medical spending for an obese person was $3,271 compared with $512 for the non-obese.

Nationally, that comes to $190 billion a year in additional medical spending as a result of obesity, calculated Cawley, or 20.6 percent of U.S. health care expenditures.

That is double recent estimates, reflecting more precise methodology. The new analysis corrected for people’s tendency to low-ball their weight, for instance, and compared obesity with non-obesity (healthy weight and overweight) rather than just to healthy weight. Because the merely overweight do not incur many additional medical costs, grouping the overweight with the obese underestimates the costs of obesity.

<snip>

 “Where healthcare costs really take off is in the morbidly obese.”

Those extra medical costs are partly born by the non-obese, in the form of higher taxes to support Medicaid and higher health insurance premiums. Obese women raise such “third party” expenditures $3,220 a year each; obese men, $967 a year, Cawley and Meyerhoefer found.

One recent surprise is the discovery that the costs of obesity exceed those of smoking. In a paper published in March, scientists at the Mayo Clinic toted up the exact medical costs of 30,529 Mayo employees, adult dependents, and retirees over several years.

“Smoking added about 20 percent a year to medical costs,” said Mayo’s James Naessens. “Obesity was similar, but morbid obesity increased those costs by 50 percent a year. There really is an economic justification for employers to offer programs to help the very obese lose weight.”

For years researchers suspected that the higher medical costs of obesity might be offset by the possibility that the obese would die young, and thus never rack up spending for nursing homes, Alzheimer’s care, and other pricey items.

That’s what happens to smokers. While they do incur higher medical costs than nonsmokers in any given year, their lifetime drain on public and private dollars is less because they die sooner. “Smokers die early enough that they save Social Security, private pensions, and Medicare” trillions of dollars, said Duke’s Finkelstein. “But mortality isn’t that much higher among the obese.”

Beta blockers for heart disease, diabetes drugs, and other treatments are keeping the obese alive longer, with the result that they incur astronomically high medical expenses in old age just like their slimmer peers.

Some costs of obesity reflect basic physics. It requires twice as much energy to move 250 pounds than 125 pounds. As a result, a vehicle burns more gasoline carrying heavier passengers than lighter ones.

“Growing obesity rates increase fuel consumption,” said engineer Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois. How much? An additional 938 million gallons of gasoline each year due to overweight and obesity in the United States, or 0.8 percent, he calculated. That's $4 billion extra.

Not all the changes spurred by the prevalence of obesity come with a price tag. Train cars New Jersey Transit ordered from Bombardier have seats 2.2 inches wider than current cars, at 19.75 inches, said spokesman John Durso, giving everyone a more comfortable commute. (There will also be more seats per car because the new ones are double-deckers.)

The built environment generally is changing to accommodate larger Americans. New York’s commuter trains are considering new cars with seats able to hold 400 pounds. Blue Bird is widening the front doors on its school buses so wider kids can fit. And at both the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, seats are wider than their predecessors by 1 to 2 inches.

The new performance testing proposed by transit officials for buses, assuming an average passenger weight of 175 instead of 150 pounds, arise from concerns that heavier passengers might pose a safety threat. If too much weight is behind the rear axle, a bus can lose steering. And every additional pound increases a moving vehicle’s momentum, requiring more force to stop and thereby putting greater demands on brakes. Manufacturers have told the FTA the proposal will require them to upgrade several components.

Hospitals, too, are adapting to larger patients. The University of Alabama at Birmingham's hospital, the nation's fourth largest, has widened doors, replaced wall-mounted toilets with floor models able to hold 250 pounds or more, and bought plus-size wheelchairs (twice the price of regulars) as well as mini-cranes to hoist obese patients out of bed.

The additional spending due to obesity doesn’t fall into a black hole, of course. It contributes to overall economic activity and thus to gross domestic product. But not all spending is created equal.

“Yes, a heart attack will generate economic activity, since the surgeon and hospital get paid, but not in a good way,” said Murray Ross, vice president of Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Policy. “If we avoided that heart attack we could have put the money to better use, such as in education or investments in clean energy.” 

The books on obesity remain open. The latest entry: An obese man is 64 percent less likely to be arrested for a crime than a healthy man. Researchers have yet to run the numbers on what that might save.

Is anyone here concerned that our gov't is going to more closely watch and attempt to regulate the people they deem to be obese?


by on Apr. 30, 2012 at 9:27 AM
Replies (21-30):
OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Apr. 30, 2012 at 2:43 PM

 Obesity is a huge problem.  Obesity increases your chance of so many different diseases.  It pays to be proactive and live a healthy lifestyle.  Some companies are giving incentives to help their employees.  Some are paying a portion of gym memberships.  Mine is paying $50 for every adult that is on the employee's health plan to get a physical each year.  We'll see if that helps at all.  I know for my family, my husband and I have taken advantage of getting our physicals.   He was told to lose weight and why, and so far, he has lost 31 pounds.  Sometimes all it takes is a wake up call.

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 30, 2012 at 2:49 PM


Quoting Sisteract:

Yes-

My husband's company already screens all of  us over age 50 for markers: BMI, Blood fat, Blood Glucose, BP and Cholesterol levels. Your premium costs are based on your scores AND if you're willing to seek treatment.

Companies pass the higher costs off on ALL their customers.

I realize that maintaining a healthy weight IS harder as one ages. Game changes at about 45 :(

I'm on the verge of 42 and I am there.

I have had more health issues in the past 4 years than in my last 40.

Right now I am trying to keep my sanity while I am laid up until Friday trying to recuperate from what was supposed to be a simple surgery for a hiatal hernia. No such luck for simple recovery.

andiemomo3
by Andie on Apr. 30, 2012 at 2:52 PM
One of husband's employee's is on his third week out of work. He has used his sick days. My husband has told this employee that he (my husband) will continue to pay himm while he is out and not make him use his vacation days.

The employee is out because he is not healing properly from a surgery to correct hemmoroids. That he has due to his obesity. He isn't healing properly due to his diabetes which is a direct result of his poor diet. Which lead to his obesity. He also does not exercise. My husband tells me this man can eat a whole pizza in the three blocks from the post office to the store.

So, yes.
Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 30, 2012 at 2:56 PM


Quoting TigOlBitties:

Didn't read it all and didn't have to because I deal with the obesity epidemic and the associated costs daily. It is insane!! I would never make fun of obese people but I do feel sorry for them...I can't help it. I try and help any/all of them that I can, but there are many that don't seem to even want help. It's like your quality of life could be sooo much better, but it is completely in your own hands.

For a lot of people losing weight is about a complete lifestyle change. Like I said previously, I've been there. I topped out at 240 lbs and lost 80lbs over the course of a year. I had managed to keep the weight off until a few months ago. Now I seem to be gaining for no reason, well except perhaps my age and genetics.

I have image issues, I struggle with self esteem and appearance. I'm aware. I don't try to fool other people into believing that big is beautiful. I also stopped working extra hard to try to prove myself to people who only see my appearance.

I want to be healthy for myself. The added pressure society places on people about their weight or appearance can be cruel and inadvertently sabotaging.

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 30, 2012 at 2:58 PM


Quoting andiemomo3:

One of husband's employee's is on his third week out of work. He has used his sick days. My husband has told this employee that he (my husband) will continue to pay himm while he is out and not make him use his vacation days.

The employee is out because he is not healing properly from a surgery to correct hemmoroids. That he has due to his obesity. He isn't healing properly due to his diabetes which is a direct result of his poor diet. Which lead to his obesity. He also does not exercise. My husband tells me this man can eat a whole pizza in the three blocks from the post office to the store.

So, yes.

My husband can kill about 5,000 calories a day. I keep telling him it's going to catch up to him.

andiemomo3
by Andie on Apr. 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM
Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:


Wow. My husband used to eat a ton. He's not "skinny" now. But he is a healthy weight. When we got married, he was about 50 pounds heavier. I think having children slimmed him down. Because we became so careful a nd rigorous about what we fed the kiddos, we had to try and follow the same rules. We also use the small plate rule. And rarely get seconds.

As I get older, it's harder to keep the weight off. I'm naturally active but I hate to exercise. It's boring!!
LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Apr. 30, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Thin people with cancer are also costing me money.

So?

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 30, 2012 at 3:05 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting andiemomo3:

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:


Wow. My husband used to eat a ton. He's not "skinny" now. But he is a healthy weight. When we got married, he was about 50 pounds heavier. I think having children slimmed him down. Because we became so careful a nd rigorous about what we fed the kiddos, we had to try and follow the same rules. We also use the small plate rule. And rarely get seconds.

As I get older, it's harder to keep the weight off. I'm naturally active but I hate to exercise. It's boring!!

My husband hates leftovers. I try to make enough for all of us to be sated without seconds. I keep a lot f healthy snacks in the house, too.

I never at after diner. I just don't. Well, unless I'm hormonally crazed, but usually I don't.

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Apr. 30, 2012 at 3:07 PM
1 mom liked this

Exercise is only boring if you do boring exercise.

I spent the weekend umpiring a girls' softball tournament: I promise, there was very little 'boring' about it. 300 squats an hour, plus sprinting...

Quoting andiemomo3:

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:


Wow. My husband used to eat a ton. He's not "skinny" now. But he is a healthy weight. When we got married, he was about 50 pounds heavier. I think having children slimmed him down. Because we became so careful a nd rigorous about what we fed the kiddos, we had to try and follow the same rules. We also use the small plate rule. And rarely get seconds.

As I get older, it's harder to keep the weight off. I'm naturally active but I hate to exercise. It's boring!!


andiemomo3
by Andie on Apr. 30, 2012 at 3:11 PM
Quoting LindaClement:


I'm talking about the stuff people do in gyms. Like I said, I'm active. Doing the "fun" exercise, like you. Except I take hikes with my dog and play tag with the kiddos. Things like that.

My daughter is in her second year of softball. I love spring softball.
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)