Private Health Care Spending for Obesity-Related Conditions Increased Between 1987, 2002, Study Finds
Private health care spending for obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, was 10 times higher in 2002 than in 1987, according to a study conducted by the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University in Atlanta and published online Monday in the journal Health Affairs, USA Today reports. For the study, lead author Kenneth Thorpe, chair of Emory's department of health policy and management, and colleagues analyzed national surveys of about 14,000 people in 1987 and 2002, the latest year for which data are available.
The study found that:
- Overall, employers and privately insured families spent $36.5 billion on obesity-related conditions in 2002, up from $3.6 billion in 1987;
- About 25% of extremely obese patients were being treated for six or more conditions in 2002, compared with 14% in 1987;
- Obesity-related conditions accounted for 11.6% of health care spending in 2002, up from 2% in 1987 (Hellmich, USA Today, 6/27); and
- The difference in annual health care spending between obese adults with private insurance and normal-weight adults with private insurance increased from $272 per person in 1987 to $1,244 per person in 2002.
For 16 of the conditions, the increase in treated disease prevalence, rather than higher treatment costs per case -- accounted for more than half of the growth in health care spending. For example, the number of people treated for diabetes between 1987 and 2002 increased by 64%, according to the study.
Nearly 80% of the increase in health care spending for diabetes was caused by the rise in people receiving treatment for the illness, the study found (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/27).
Thorpe said, "Most of what is going on now to try to control health care spending is missing the target." He added, "Companies are tweaking copays and talking about health care savings accounts when really they need to redirect their focus to reduce the prevalence of obesity among children and workers" (USA Today, 6/27).
An abstract of the study is available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.