Severe Obesity Costs California Billions of Dollars, Study Finds
Details of Study
The study defined:
- Obesity as a body mass index between 30 and 35; and
- Severe obesity as a BMI of 35 or higher.
According to study author Michael Long, an assistant professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, severe obesity has bigger health risks and higher associated costs than moderate obesity.
Overall, the study found that severe obesity cost state Medicaid programs a total of about $8 billion in 2013.
Long noted that across the country, care for moderately obese patients costs an average of $941 more annually than care for normal-weight patients, while care for severely obese patients costs an average of $1,980 more.
The study estimated that about 29% of Californians are obese, while about 11% are severely obese. California has the third-lowest obesity rate in the country.
However, California has the highest number of severely obese residents at 3.2 million, in part because of its large overall population.
Severe obesity in the state resulted in costs of about $9.1 billion in 2013. According to the study, Medi-Cal -- the state's Medicaid program -- covered about $1.3 billion, while other health plans, including Medicare, covered the remainder.
Anthony Cava -- a spokesperson for the California Department of Health Care Services, which oversees Medi-Cal -- said he could not comment specifically on the study's findings, but he noted that DHCS is using multiple strategies to address obesity.
For example, he said the agency recently assessed how Medi-Cal managed care plans:
- Encourage healthy eating habits and physical activity; and
- Operate obesity prevention and management programs (Karlamangla, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/2).