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Obesity Care Costs Double What Was Previously Estimated

A nonpartisan and nonprofit research organization, The National Bureau of Economic Research, released a sobering report last week regarding the cost of obesity care.

Almost 17% of America's medical costs are attributed to obesity. This means that America's weight problem may have almost twice the impact on medical care spending as estimated previously.

One expert in this study confirmed that old estimates were most likely low balled, and the actual costs are about $168 billion. Another researcher from Emory University, whose focus is the cost of medical care, agreed that this estimate is probably the most statistically sound and most recent estimate that's come out up until now.

A study that was released in 2009 which was very influential, which was quoted by federal health officials, put obesity induced medical costs to be at $147 billion, which is approximately 9% of America's total medical costs. This study also projected that obesity attributes to $1,400 more in a person's medical bills per year. The new study reveals that the actual added cost is twice that, more than $2,800.

The data was obtained by using a database that other researchers of obesity have utilized, which is a federal survey of American citizens and their physicians, and other types of medical providers. This is considered to be the most complete and accurate information regarding the use and cost of medical care in the U.S.

The new study examined the database's information on about 24,000 adult patients that aren't elderly from 2000-2005. Results were published in 2005 dollars.

The researchers came up with much larger estimates due to a number of factors. First, older studies only relied on self reported weight, which is often understated. Statistical adjustments were made to account for the understated reported weight. Secondly, the researchers attempted to better correlate that excess weight resulted in medical costs. Older studies in the past have stopped just short of stating that obesity causes the costs since there was too likely a change that other factors could be the culprit. The researchers attempted to overcome that issue by simultaneously examining the weight of the study subjects' family, to uncover if obesity runs in their family. If it does, then they concluded that the medical costs incurred by a fat person in their family were caused by obesity.

The estimates are very high, and the researchers agreed that it's very hard to pinpoint medical conditions that are not worsened or made more expensive by being obese.

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Article Added on Tuesday, November 9, 2010
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