Obesity costs Medicaid $8B annually

About one in seven American adults is severely obese — with a body mass index of 35 or higher — which cost the U.S. $69 billion in 2013, according to a recent study in Health Affairs.

State Medicaid programs footed $8 billion of the bill, while Medicare and federal programs paid about $21 billion, private payers paid $18 billion and patients paid $22 billion. As states expand Medicaid, the study notes, the cost of severe obesity — which was formally defined a disease by CMS in 2004 — will likely increase substantially.  

State by state, annual costs of obesity in 2013 ranged from $9.1 billion in California to $64 million in Wyoming. Medicaid covered $1.3 billion of California's bill and $5 million on Wyoming's, according to the report. However, the researchers note the highest expenditures for obesity were not always in the most obese states. West Virginia, Mississippi and Tennessee, which are the most obese, did not rank because healthcare costs are so low.

State programs pay an average of 13 percent of the costs of severe obesity, though in Delaware, Maine, Vermont and the District of Columbia, Medicaid covers more than one-fifth of the cost.

"Ensuring and expanding Medicaid-eligible populations' access to effective and cost-effective treatments for severe obesity should be part of the strategy to mitigate rising healthcare costs related to obesity," the authors of the study conclude.


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