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Almost 10 Percent of U.S. Medical Costs Tied to Obesity
Date:7/27/2009

Only return to healthy behaviors will bring expenditures down, experts say ,,

MONDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity in the United States now carries the hefty price tag of $147 billion per year in direct medical costs, just over 9 percent of all medical spending, experts report.

In fact, people who are obese spend almost $1,500 more each year on health care -- about 41 percent more than an average-weight person. Beyond those costs are the disability and early deaths caused by obesity, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a press conference Monday.

"Obesity, and with it diabetes, are the only major health problems that are getting worse in this country, and they are getting worse rapidly," Frieden said. "The average American is now 23 pounds overweight."

Frieden's comments were made at the CDC's "Weight of the Nation" conference, held this week in Washington, D.C.

Between 1998 and and 2006, obesity rates in the United States increased 37 percent and now one in three adults in the country are obese. Experts have long known the toll overweight takes on health, but the new report, published in the July 27 online edition of Health Affairs, outlines the financial cost of obesity.

"A normal-weight individual will spend about $3,400 per year in medical expenditures and that number rises to about $4,870 if that individual is obese," study author Eric Finkelstein, director, RTI Public Health Economics Program in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said during the press conference.

For people on Medicare, average expenses for a normal-weight person average about $4,700 a year, while costs for an obese person range about $6,400 annually, Finkelstein said.

The biggest driver of these excess costs are prescription drugs, Finkelstein said. Among the normal-weight population, prescription drug costs average about $700 a ye
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