NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obesity Costs United States Plenty

July 9, 2003

Medical expenditures resulting from treating obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and some other disorders are significant. According to National Health Accounts estimates, $92.6 billion (2002 dollars) in annual medical spending is attributable to overweight and obesity.

This is especially dire for government programs such as Medicare since the effects tend to strike the elderly more so that those under 65. Slightly more than 56 percent of Medicaid enrollees are over-weight or obese.

The costs are high:

  • The average increase in annual medical spending associated with obesity is 36.8 percent for Medicare accounting for $1,486 in additional expenditure.
  • Medicaid fares little better with a 39.1 percent increase ($864).
  • The increase in out-of-pocket expenditure is only $125 which includes the uninsured and non-covered services.

Unless programs aimed at reducing the rise in obesity rates are successfully implemented, overweight- and obesity-attributable spending will continue to increase and government will continue to finance a sizable portion of the total, notes the report.

Source: Eric A. Finkelstein, Ian C. Fiebelkorn and Guijing Wang, "National Medical Spending Attributable to Overweight and Obesity: How Much, and Who's Paying?" Datawatch: Costs of Obesity Web Exclusive, Health Affairs, May 2003.

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