Obesity Rise Having Effect on Medicaid Costs
As Americans continue to eat more, exercise less, and gain more weight, the rise in obesity is having a
widespread effect on everything from gas prices to healthcare costs. Recent studies show exactly how
pervasive this effect is and how much more all Americans spend on healthcare because of the rise in
According to researchers at Lehigh University, the average obese man incurs about $1,150 in health-
care spending every year (most of it coming from hospitalization) and prescription drug coverage. For
uninsured obese people, those costs are even more significant. The average spending for an obese
person without healthcare coverage and who is likely covered by Medicaid equaled about $3,270 per
year. On the other hand, a non-obese person who is not covered by health insurance only incurs about
$512 per year in medical expenses.
The extra costs spent for this coverage are at least partially paid for by the non-obese. Medicaid
expenses must be paid for through higher taxes or cutbacks in different programs. For obese people on
health insurance, premiums tend to increase for all insurance premium payers, including non-obese
people covered by the same insurance policy.
The difference between obese people and those considered morbidly obese are even more significant.
While obesity adds about 20% per year in health-care costs, a figure similar to that added by smoking,
morbid obesity increases costs by an estimated 50% per year. As obesity rates continue to expand, so
too will Medicaid expenditures and insurance premiums.
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