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The high cost of the obesity epidemic, state by state
By Insure.com staff

The obesity epidemic is costing the health care system millions and, in some cases, billions of dollars in states around the country, according to a new study by researchers at RTI International, Duke University and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Obesity-related medical expenses range from $203 million in Wyoming to $15.2 billion in California a year, the researchers estimate. Taxpayers foot the bill for some of those expenses through the federal Medicaid and Medicare health insurance programs. Medicaid expenditures for obesity-related medical conditions range from $38 million in Wyoming to $4 billion in New York, and obesity-related Medicare expenditures range from $35 million in Wyoming to $3.4 billion in California, according to the researchers.

Obesity-related medical costs comprise 10 percent or more of total medical expenditures in nine states--Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. Obesity-related medical expenses, compared to total medical expenses, were lowest in Colorado, where 7 percent of annual medical costs were attributable to obesity, followed by Hawaii at 7.2 percent.

"This study shows that the toll that obesity takes goes beyond impairing the health of individuals to imposing a major burden on the entire health care system," Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Carolyn M. Clancy said in a prepared statement. "Reducing the prevalence of obesity and its complications is an important priority for the nation and requires focused and constant attention."

The study, published online in the journal Obesity, was based on the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which researchers used to generate an equation that predicts annual medical expenditures due to obesity.

In a previous paper published in the journal Health Affairs, the researchers estimated national health care expenses from obesity totaled $147 billion.

Besides leading to higher expenses for government insurance programs, rising medical costs from obesity lead to higher health insurance rates in the private insurance market.

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