Lose Weight, Save Medicare $35 Billion

October 14, 2011

A 10% weight loss in patients age 60 to 64 may be able to provide Medicare savings of $8 billion over 10 years and $35 billion over their lifetime, according to Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD.

A 10% weight loss in patients age 60 to 64 may be able to provide Medicare savings of $8 billion over 10 years and $35 billion over their lifetime, according to Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD. Thorpe is a professor and chair of health policy and management at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health. He also serves as executive director of the partnership to fight chronic diseases and as a consultant to biopharmaceutical company, VIVUS.

He says many of the government's current approaches to weight loss are not addressing obesity, which is responsible for the rising rates of diabetes, hypertension and dyslipdemia. 

“Weight loss generates lower spending,” Thorpe says. “We spend 40% more on healthcare for obese people than for normal-weight people.”

He says if the Medicare program made evidence-based lifestyle modification programs-such as the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program via UnitedHealthcare-available to everyone at age 60, it would generate $7 billion in savings over the next decade.

“The payers that don't have evidence-based workplace wellness programs are missing big opportunity,” he says. “We have a decade of data showing that it works.”

He is also hopeful about a range of investigational weight-loss drugs still pending FDA approval he says can help achieve a 10% to 15% reduction in weight.

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