The health risks associated with obesity have long been well known, though the extent to which obesity impacts health care spending appears to only be increasing. Since 1960, the number of Americans who are considered either obese or morbidly obese has ballooned to about 40% of the entire population. Along with the associated health care risks, costs, and loss of productivity, this obesity epidemic is also increasing the amount non-obese people have to pay for health care coverage, including Medicaid.
Researchers have reported that the average obese man incurs about $1,150 per year in additional medical costs, while an obese woman incurs over $3,600 per year in additional costs. When taken as a whole, the total amount of increased expenses the nation spends because of obesity amounts to $190 billion per year, or slightly less than 21% of the total amount spent on health care.
This increase in health care expenses has to get paid somehow, and insurance companies, as well as Medicaid providers, spread the cost out to others, including the non-obese. Researchers estimate that the average obese woman raises “third party” health care expenses by $3,220 a year, while an obese man increases costs by almost $1,000 per year.
Lawmakers have noticed the impact obesity is having on the health care system as a whole, and have begun implementing strategies to deal with it. The 2010 Health Care Reform law, for example, gives employers the option to raise health care premiums for obese workers if those workers do not participate in an approved wellness program.