Obesity Contributing to Medicare Spending Increases
The rate of obesity among Medicare beneficiaries more than doubled from 1987 to 2002, and spending on health care for those beneficiaries also more than doubled over the same period, according to a study published on the Health Affairs Web site, Gannett/USA Today reports.
For the study, Kenneth Thorpe, chair of the Department of Health Policy Management at Emory University, and colleagues examined Medicare spending and beneficiary data from 1987 to 2002. The study finds that the rate of obesity among Medicare beneficiaries increased from 11.7% in 1987 to 22.5% in 2002 and that spending on health care for those beneficiaries increased from 9.4% to 24.8% of the program budget over the same period.
According to the study, physicians have become more aggressive in the treatment of Medicare beneficiaries with cardiovascular risk factors -- such as diabetes, hypertension or low levels of "good" cholesterol -- a practice that has extended the lives of beneficiaries but also has increased spending on health care.
Thorpe said, "What this study tells us is that we need to aggressively put in place interventions to deal with obesity and chronic disease prevalence among the elderly to control spending" (Wheeler, Gannett/USA Today, 8/22).