December 22/29, 2015
According to a recent study, Medicaid programs paid $8 billion for medical care related to severe obesity in 2013, accounting for 11% of the $69 billion in costs associated with the care of severely obese patients in 2013 (Wang YC et al. Health Aff. 2015;34:1923-1931). Medicare and other federal programs paid for 30% of costs related to severe obesity, private health plans paid 27%, and patients paid 30% of the costs out of pocket.
Julie A. Jacob, MA
The team of researchers, led by Y. Claire Wang, ScD, associate professor of health policy and management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, analyzed 2007-2012 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for nearly 118 000 Medicaid patients to calculate and compare annual medical costs for nonobese, moderately obese, and severely obese adults (defined as having a body mass index of ≥35). Notably, researchers found that severely obese patients had medical costs that were $1980 higher annually per capita, expressed in 2014 dollars, than individuals within a normal body mass index range.
The study authors suggest that the cost of treating patients with complications due to severe obesity will be an issue of increasing concern if additional states beyond the current 31 accept Affordable Care Act funding to extend Medicaid coverage to include low-income individuals without children. Therefore, the researchers recommend that more resources should be directed to help severely obese Medicaid patients lose weight to mitigate rising health care costs associated with obesity.