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The cost of America’s Obesity (and what to do about it)

It’s no shocker that America, as a whole, is kind-a fat.  The current obesity rate is just under 1/3 of the population, and it isn’t going down.  For more of the data, check out the article over at Executive Health Magazine.  The gist of the article though, is it’s expected that in just 9 years, obesity related medical treatments will cost a staggering (yes, I used the word pundits use) $344 Billion (that’s with a B) every year, because an extra 10% of U.S. citizens waistlines will be considered obese.  And this isn’t because some government agency is out to make us all seem fat and thin up, that’s by current standards.

One suggestion to help fix the problem, is actually from the UK.  I don’t have a link handy, so if you’re curious you’ll have to dig through the interwebz a little bit, but the UK has created a sort of incentive program to try and reduce obesity.  Essentially how the program works, is doctors are given more money for helping patients loose weight.  The trick is really just in making it not a lame duck policy, such as mandating that previously obese patients must keep off at least 50% of the lost weight for longer than 2 years.

Now, lets do some quick math.  If there are currently 80 million people considered obese in the states, and for each patient that meets these guidelines thanks to doctor assistance accounts for an additional $1000 in the doctor’s pocket, that means that doctors would receive a total of $80 Billion (with a B).  And, if additional programs, drugs, treatments, visits to the doctors office, etc, cost an average of $1500 per person in the first year, that would be an additional $120 Billion.  And to try and take everything into account (even though I can’t hope to do so), if gym memberships cost $40 per person per month, that’s $480 per person per year, or $38.4 Billion.  So, going by this, the first year would cost $328.4 Billion.  But, the second year, and successive years, would cost only $38.4 Billion for all these people, which is less than one third what the health care industry currently spends on obesity related treatments.  And that’s if a gym membership which is used regularly (key idea here), is considered a medical expense.  If it’s not, then that’s potentially more money to be saved.  Even if the patients pay for the membership themselves, I can guarantee they will have saved that money in food.

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