Obesity and Health Costs

By Tom Colin, CQ Researcher Managing Editor
July 29, 2009

It occurs to me that when you’ve been in the news biz as long as I have (don’t ask, and I won’t tell) there is one phrase in French that’s indispensable because it sums up so much of what we do: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Take the just-released report on the link between obesity and soaring health-care costs. Among its mind-blowing findings:

*Americans who are 30 or more pounds over healthy weight cost the country an estimated $147 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2008;

*Obesity accounts for 9.1% of all medical spending, up from 6.5% in 1998;

*Overall, an obese patient has $4,871 in medical bills a year compared with $3,442 for a patient at a healthy weight.

*About 34% of adults—more than 72 million Americans – were obese in 2006.
Indeed, as CQ Researcher health-care specialist Marcia Clemmitt reported last year in “Heart Health” (Sept. 12, 2008):
With obesity rates rising steeply, waves of high-cost heart-disease patients will drive health-system costs sky-high over the next few decades, according to David Herrington, a professor of internal medicine at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. High costs of caring for the first wave, made up of baby boomers, will begin hitting the system in the next few years. Among boomers, the number of heart-disease patients is "astronomically large," said Herrington.

The second wave will hit around 2030, as baby boomers' children, to date the most obese generation the United States has seen, begins aging into heart disease and other obesity-related chronic ills. At that point, "the lid is going to blow off vascular diseases, and it could bankrupt society," according to William Boden, a professor of medicine and public health at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Which brings us back to “Plus ça change”….., because that’s pretty much what we have reported in several other previous CQ Researcher reports, including:

Rising Health Costs” (Marcia Clemmitt), April 7, 2006; and “Obesity Epidemic” (Alan Greenblatt), Jan. 31, 2003.

We’ll have the latest on rising health costs soon, in Marcia's forthcoming report on “Health Care Reform,” August 28.

Tom Colin
Managing Editor


eka kurnila said...

very good article