Obese adults spend more on care

September 10, 2009
Tracey Walker
Tracey Walker

She is senior editor of Managed Healthcare Executive.

Obese adults spend about $1,400 more on medical care annually than those who are not.

Obese adults spent about $1,400 more on medical care per year than those who were of normal weight and, in total, excess spending for obese adults may be as high as $147 billion, say researchers in a study published in Health Affairs (“Annual Medical Spending Attributable To Obesity: Payer-And Service-Specific Estimates,” published online July 27, 2009).

Over the period from 1998 to 2006 the annual medical burden of obesity increased from 6.5% to 9.1% of annual spending indicating that obesity imposes a substantial and growing burden on both public and private payers.

“The results from the study also indicated that the increasing prevalence of obesity was responsible for most of the increased medical spending attributable to obesity between 1998 and 2006,” Joel W. Cohen, PhD, director, Division of Social and Economic Research, CFACT/AHRQ, tells Managed Healthcare Executive.

“The results suggest that without some effort to reduce the prevalence of obesity, it will continue to impose additional costs on the U.S. healthcare system into the future,” Cohen says.

In terms of surprises, the finding that the increases in overall costs associated with obesity were mainly a result of increasing prevalence, and not increases in cost per case differed from the results of some previous research looking at obesity-related spending in an earlier time period, according to Cohen.