Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Obesity contributes to high Medicare outlays

Obesity and certain chronic conditions were major factors driving virtually all Medicare spending growth for the past 15 years, according to a new analysis of Medicare cost and patient data.

The rate of obesity among Medicare patients doubled from 1987 to 2002, and spending on those individuals more than doubled, according to economists Kenneth Thorpe and David Howard.

Their study appeared Tuesday on the website of the journal Health Affairs.

"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," said Thorpe, chairman of the Department of Health Policy Management at Emory University.

In 1987, 11.7% of the Medicare population was considered obese. That number grew to 22.5% of Medicare enrollees by 2002.

Spending on medical care for obese Medicare patients was 9.4% of the federal government program's budget in 1987 but jumped to 24.8% by 2002, according to the analysis.

Physicians also are becoming more aggressive in treating patients who have a cluster of cardiovascular-related risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or low levels of "good" cholesterol, the study found.

Such treatment patterns are good news for seniors because it means many older men and women are living longer. But more elderly Americans living longer also increases the long-term costs of the Medicare program.

Read more in USA Today.  Or go whole-hog and get the Heath Affairs article.

Then, check out the US's obesity rate compared with that of other OECD nations

Obesity is a major problem in this country that threatens to threaten our health- and long-term care industries in the next three decades.  So get out there and get active!

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