This article will relate the current obesity problem in America with the increasing costs for weight related diseases on healthcare while also comparing it to the health issues caused by tobacco, which is usually much easier for people to relate to. The following research will show approximately how much money is being spent towards these conditions and who is carrying the most of the burden in costs. There also have been suggested options that are meant to intervene and help improve the persons life but not without improving financially.
According to recent trends, obesity among adults in America has increased 45% in the past ten years. This has been a consequence of the ever decreasing monetary cost of calorie dense foods as well as an increase in the reluctance to engage in physical inactivity (Finkelstein). Health risks associated with excessive weight gain begin when the persons’ body mass index, or BMI, reaches 25. At this point the individual is considered overweight until the BMI reaches 30 then the individual becomes classified as obese. Along with a 30 or above in BMI, a persons’ health becomes at risk with many more conditions due to their obesity. These conditions include hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoarthritis, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), Type-2 diabetes and even cause strokes heart disease and certain cancers. In 2000, what has become known as “poor diet and physical inactivity,” caused 365,000 deaths, making it the second leading “actual cause” of death in the United States with tobacco coming in first with 435,000 deaths.
With the significant increase in obesity the economic consequences have vastly increased as well. 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. Morbidity costs are defined as the value of income lost from decreased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism, and bed days. Mortality costs are the value of future income lost by premature death (Overweight and Obesity, 2008).
Most Americans accept the fact that tobacco is responsible for a tremendous percentage of healthcare expenditures. In the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s tobacco was responsible for $75 billion in direct medical costs annually. With two thirds of Americans overweight many are still uninformed that obesity contributed to $47.5 billion in direct medical expenditures in 1998 according to the National Health Accounts (NHA) study (Overweight and Obesity, 2008). To date, medical costs for overweight and obesity is now over $90 billion a year. Roughly 9% of aggregate medical spending goes to treating obesity related diseases. As a result, health insurance premiums and social security taxes have increased, and health care is rationed. Although Medicare and Medicaid pay approximately half of obesity-attributable money, each taxpayer is now responsible for a payment of approximately $180 a year for obesity related medical costs for public sector health plans. These advances have reduced the personal cost of healthcare but have in turn placed the burden on employers and the government (Finkelstein).
In order to set the country straight on the medical issues at hand, economists have concluded that there are no effective options regarding the reduction of the obesity rate in America without reducing the total medical costs as well. Research has shown that a number of obese personalities exist as well as a number of interventions for each. The common factor each has shown is that none of these appear to work without the appropriate financial involvement. A decrease in overall marginal cost will most likely bring about a change in certain behaviors of Americans, appropriately being eating habits and exercising. Although the U.S. health insurance’s stand on obesity is that ultimately, it is not their problem.