Annual Costs Double for Severely Obese Medicare Beneficiaries, Study Finds
Annual Medicare costs for beneficiaries who were severely obese in their middle age were nearly double those of beneficiaries who had a normal weight in their middle age, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Houston Chronicle reports.
For the study, lead author Martha Daviglus of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and colleagues collected height and weight data on nearly 40,000 Chicago-area residents between 1967 and 1973. All participants were free of heart disease, diabetes and other cardiac problems. The researchers then analyzed Medicare costs for each of the participants between 1984 and 2002 based on height and weight statistics.
They found that participants who were overweight, obese and severely obese all incurred "substantially higher" medical costs than participants with healthy weights, according to the Chronicle. The study's authors called the findings "worrisome."
Daviglus said, "We have an epidemic of obesity, and if we don't take care of it right now while we still can, we are going to face serious difficulties later." Doctors who were not involved with the research said the findings were significant because, unlike previous reports on high medical costs for overweight U.S. residents, the Chicago study tracked participants over a long period of time and did not rely on statistical projections of future spending.
"This is a real eye-opener," Dr. Deepa Vasudevan, an assistant professor of family practice at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said. The study was funded by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the Illinois Regional Medical Program and the Chicago Health Research Foundation (Berger, Houston Chronicle, 12/7).
An abstract of the study is available online.