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Severe Obesity in Adults Costs Medicaid $8 Billion Annually

And health care expenses for heaviest adults is nearly $2,000 more a year per patient

overweight woman

TUESDAY, Nov. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Severe obesity is putting a huge financial strain on both the U.S. Medicaid system and severely obese patients themselves, according to a report published in the November issue of Health Affairs.

Michael Long, Sc.D., an assistant professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues reviewed data from two national studies conducted between 2007 and 2013. The studies included more than a half million people.

The researchers found that the moderately obese pay $941 more per year for health care, compared with someone of normal weight. By contrast, people who are severely obese pay $1,980 more. Private insurances covered more than one-quarter of these expenses, while Medicare covered about 30 percent. State-run Medicaid programs paid 11 percent of those bills, the investigators found. And, patients were left to cover 30 percent out of their own pockets.

Overall, severe obesity cost state Medicaid programs almost $8 billion a year. Some state Medicaid programs pay more than others. For example, Wyoming's program now covers 58,000 severely obese adults at a cost of $64 million per year (at the low end of the scale). Meanwhile, California spends about $9.1 billion for 3.2 million adults (at the high end), the team reported. Regardless, the study authors concluded that severe obesity appears to be "disproportionately responsible" for a sizable share of the whole nation's health care bill.

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