Children on Medicaid More Likely To Be Treated for Severe Obesity
About 1,115 of every 100,000 children who are covered by Medicaid are treated for obesity annually, compared with 195 of every 100,000 children who are covered by private health insurance plans, according to a study by Thomson Medstat, the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports.
The study, which includes data from insurance claims for doctors' visits coded for "obesity," compares records of one million children from eight state Medicaid programs with records of 1.9 million children from 62 large employers offering health plans.
According to the study, about 1.1% of the claims for children covered by Medicaid -- or 11,300 children -- were coded for obesity, compared with 0.2% -- or 3,640 children -- of claims for children covered by private plans. Overall medical costs for all treatments for children covered by Medicaid were about $6,700 per child, compared with $3,700 per child for children covered by private plans.
Bill Marder, general manager at Thomson Medstat, said, "Medicaid children have, on average, a bigger disease burden" than privately insured children. Marder said it is likely that the study did not count all of the children considered obese because an estimated 16% of children in the U.S. are obese.
Ken Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University, said children covered by Medicaid tend to be generally less healthy than children covered by private plans. Thorpe said the data used in the study might only reflect obesity claims for the most obese children. "My bet is only the most extremely ill and largest children are coded that way," he said (Stobbe, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 2/1).