CBO: Obesity Pumps Up Healthcare Costs

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , September 14, 2010

CBO looked at several future scenarios to determine the impace of weight on the healthcare system. For one scenario, no future changes would be anticipated in the distribution of adults by body weight—the prevalence of obesity would remain at the 2007 rate of 28%. In this situation, per capita spending on healthcare for adults would rise by 65%—from $4,550 in 2007 to $7,500 in 2020—"largely as a result of rapidly increasing healthcare spending for all adults regardless of weight," the CBO analysts say.

In another alternative scenario, CBO assumed a rising prevalence of obesity, matching recent trends. In that scenario, the prevalence of obesity would rise to 37% by 2020, with per capita spending increasing to $7,760—about 3% higher than spending in the first scenario.

CBO also assesses the impact of a reversal in recent trends—with obesity dropping. In that scenario, the prevalence of obesity among adults would decline to 20% by 2020. Per capita spending would increase to $7,230 about 4% lower than spending in the first scenario.

Since lower rates of obesity are associated with better health and lower healthcare spending per capita, devising policies that would reduce the fraction of the population that is obese is a consideration. However, the challenges are significant.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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