Obesity might cost Americans a huge $344 billion. That is a whopping 21 per cent of healthcare spending, says a new study.
The America's Health Rankings report. by Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D. of Emory University and Executive Director, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and colleagues from Emory University report provides projections of future health care costs directly attributable to obesity for each state and for the nation. The researchers developed an econometric model for the purpose.
The estimates are controlled for age, gender, race, ethnicity, marital status, education, income, health insurance status, geographic region and smoking status.
The report describes obesity as the fasting growing public health challenge the nation has ever faced - and says its rapid increase has crossed all socio‐economic groups.
Three factors are supposed to contribute to the increasing burden of treating obesity; the increase in the number of people that are obese, the increasing cost of treatments specific to obesity‐related illnesses and the demographic shift in population with a general trend for older individuals to be obese. Among the findings are - : Obesity is growing faster than any previous public health issue our nation has faced. If current trends continue, 103 million American adults will be considered obese by 2018.The U.S. is expected to spend $344 billion on health care costs attributable to obesity in 2018 if rates continue to increase at their current levels. Obesity‐related direct expenditures are expected to account for more than 21 percent of the nation's direct health care spending in 2018. If obesity levels were held at their current rates, the U.S. could save an estimated $820 per adult in health care costs by 2018 ‐ a savings of almost $200 billion dollars.
•An obese person will have an average of $8,315 in medical bills a year in 2018 compared with $5,855 for an adult at a healthy weight. That's a difference of $2,460.
•If the percentage of obese adults doesn't change but stays at the current rate of 34%, then excess weight will cost the nation about $198 billion by 2018.
•If the obesity rate continues to rise until 2018, then Colorado may be the only state with less than 30% of residents who are obese.
•More than 50% of the population in several states could be obese by 2018: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio and South Dakota.
Oklahoma stands to benefit the most if obesity levels remain steady. This would provide a potential savings of $1,200 per adult or a savings of more than $3.2 billion for the state. Colorado is estimated to have the lowest obesity rate.
Overall, the United States spends about $1.8 trillion a year in medical costs associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and all three are linked to smoking and obesity, the nation's two largest risk factors, according to the report.
Smoking is still the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the country, accounting for about 440,000 deaths annually, the report says.
About one in five Americans smoke. More than 3 million people quit smoking this past year. The percentage of people who smoke varies by state, from 9.3% in Utah to more than 25% in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, the study says.
This report comes as the country struggles to find ways to curb medical costs and Congress debates health care legislation.
"Obesity is going to be a leading driver in rising health-care costs," says Kenneth Thorpe who is also the chairman of the department of health policy and management at Emory University in Atlanta.
"There is a tsunami of chronic preventable disease about to be unleashed into our medical-care system which is increasingly unaffordable," says Reed Tuckson of United Health Foundation, sponsor of the report with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.
"This report is an urgent call to take much more aggressive action to deal with key disease risk factors such as obesity and smoking," Tuckson says.