Annual Report 2011: Health Policy
Assessing Obesity Costs on Health Care
In recent years, researchers at RTI have been documenting the impact of obesity on U.S. health care costs. During FY2011, a study published by researchers at RTI, Duke University, and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality assessed medical expenses related to obesity by state.
We found that states spend up to $15 billion a year in medical expenses related to obesity.
The research provides rough estimates of the share of obesity expenditures in each state that are funded by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.
Total state-level estimates in 2009 dollars range from $203 million in Wyoming to $15.2 billion in California. Obesity-attributable Medicaid expenditures range from $38 million in Wyoming to $4 billion in New York, and Medicare expenditures range from $35 million in Wyoming to $3.4 billion in California.
The figures confirm earlier findings that obesity accounts for a significant, and preventable, portion of the nation's medical bill, and they highlight the role of the states in financing these costs.
"This evidence clearly indicates that obesity imposes high annual total and public-sector medical costs on state budgets," said Justin Trogdon, PhD, a health economist at RTI and the paper's lead author. "The high costs emphasize the need to prevent and control obesity as a way to manage those costs."
Our research showed that total annual medical cost estimates attributable to obesity are 10 percent or higher in Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Colorado had the lowest percentage of annual medical estimates attributable to obesity, at 7 percent, followed by Hawaii, at 7.2 percent.
The research also showed between 25 and 64 percent of state-level obesity costs are financed by the public sector via Medicare and Medicaid.
"Policymakers can use this information to inform decisions about where to implement policies and programs designed to reduce obesity and related illnesses and costs," Trogdon said.