News | October 23, 2006

Obesity Comes with High Price Tag, Researcher Finds

Obesity and the illnesses associated with it cost the U.S. some 90.7 billion dollars a year in health care costs, a University of Pennsylvania researcher said.
Among developed countries, the U.S. has the most obese and overweight people, representing 66 percent of its overall population.

Costs tied to excess pounds (or kilograms) account for 5.04 percent of all U.S. health care costs, based on calculations by Professor Adam Gilden Tsai of the University of Pennsylvania and presented at a conference on obesity Saturday. The calculations come from a comparison of 30 previous studies on the cost of obesity for the U.S. health care system.

Other studies sought to determine whether gastric bypass surgery and similar procedures were a good investment for health plans. Such operations generally cost between 15,000 and 25,000 dollars and are not covered by most health insurance plans, according to Derek Brown of North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.

Although the financial benefits of such procedures are less evident in the short term, Brown said, they are actually more economical over the course of seven years in terms of medical savings.

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