American’s show no desire to help reduce health care costs

KEY TAKEAWAY: New data shows that nearly 40 percent of Americans were obese in 2015 and 2016, a sharp increase from a decade earlier, federal health officials reported Friday.  The prevalence of severe obesity in American adults is also rising, heightening their risks of developing heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. According to the latest data, published Friday in JAMA, 7.7 percent of American adults were severely obese in the same period.

New research shows that for a substantial fraction of Americans, a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income. Some people bounce right back, but many never work as much again. On average, people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years. Overall, income losses dwarfed the direct costs of medical care.

Obesity and its associated health problems have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system. Medical costs associated with overweight and obesity may involve direct and indirect costs. Direct medical costs may include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to obesity. Indirect costs relate to morbidity and mortality costs, including productivity. Productivity measures include ‘absenteeism’ (costs due to employees being absent from work for obesity-related health reasons) and ‘presenteeism’ (decreased productivity of employees while at work) as well as premature mortality and disability.

National Estimated Costs of Obesity

The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are high. In 2008 dollars, these costs were estimated to be $147 billion. The annual nationwide productive costs of obesity related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per obese individual).

In 2011, the average annual health spending for individuals with diabetes was $14,093. Two years later, it had risen to $14,999, according to the Healthcare Cost Institute. In contrast, a person without diabetes spent about $10,000 less in medical costs in 2013. Pharmacy provider Express Scripts said earlier this year that 2014 marked the fourth year in a row that medication used to treat diabetes were the most expensive of any traditional drug class.

In all, diabetes costs totaled an estimated $245 billion in 2012, including both direct medical expenses and indirect costs from disability and lost work productivity.

So who should tell patients they need to lose weight?

This is a touchy subject, but one in which nobody seems to want to address.  Should your doctor tell you to lose weight or should insurance companies set higher premiums for customers who don’t exercise?

It seems that we would rather blame the drug companies for high drug costs rather than lessen our reliance on Rx drugs through a healthy lifestyle. There is consistent evidence that higher amounts of body fat are associated with increased risks of a number of cancers.  According to the most recent 2014 Cancer Progress Report from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), overweight/obesity is responsible for nearly 25% of the relative contribution to cancer incidence, which ranks second only to tobacco use.

It’s long overdue that we treat obesity the same as smoking and uncover ways to motivate people to lose the weight and exercise.   It’s going to require a joint solution between the nation’s employers, insurers and HCP’s but if we don’t do something soon our health care costs are going to continue to skyrocket.

 

 

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