Finkelstein 2003 - "National Medical Spending Attributable to Overweight and Obesity: How Much, and Who's Paying?"

Finkelstein, Eric A; Fiebelkorn, Ian C; Wang, Guijing
"National Medical Spending Attributable to Overweight and Obesity: How Much, and Who's Paying?"
Health Affairs - web exclusive
May 2003; web published
On the Web
Relevance: high

Using the 1998 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and the 1996 and 1997 National Health Interview Survey, the authors estimate that aggregate medical expenditures for obesity and overweight in 1998 were 9.1% of total US medical expenditures: $78.5 billion ($92.6 billion in 2002 dollars).  The also found that Medicare and Medicaid paid for about half of these costs.

Approximately 53.6% of adults in the study were obese or overweight, and a higher percentage of Medicare patients fell into that category (56.1%).

Overweight increased spending by 14.5% ($247) per person; obesity increased spending by 37.4% ($732) per person.  The obesity number is similar to a previous estimate (36%) by Sturm.

As a percentage of total medical spending, overweight accounted for 3.7%  and obesity for 5.3%.  The obesity number is also similar to a previous estimate (5.7%) by Wolf and Colditz.

The authors provide two dollar estimates using two different estimates of health spending.  MEPS yields a smaller estimate ($51.5 billion) than the National Health Account ($78.5 billion), likely because MEPS does not include the institutionalized population, such as nursing home residents.

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