Obesity Costs A Fortune For Employers, Employees, And Government

The obesity price tag is in soaring into the billions as more and more Americans are “living large,” and everyone is paying for it, according to the latest research.

Obesity afflicts about 35 percent of adult Americans and 17 percent of children according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. And the associated healthcare costs have increased to an estimated $190 billion annually because obesity increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.

Who picks up the tab for these additional costs? Who do you think? According to the Reuters news agency, a recent study indicated that “those extra medical costs are partly born by the non-obese, in the form of higher taxes to support Medicaid and higher health insurance premiums.” Medicaid is the taxpayer-funded program providing health services to low-income persons.

Apart from obesity-related medical bills, public- and private-sector employers have been forced to widen doors, expand and strengthen seats, and to install new toilets and take other measures to accommodate grossly overweight individuals. All of these costs are eventually passed to the taxpayer and/or consumer.

Reuters explains that “businesses, governments, and individuals are only now coming to grips with the costs of those extra pounds, many of which are even greater than believed only a few years ago. The additional medical spending due to obesity is double previous estimates and exceeds even those of smoking, a new study shows.”

Obese persons also are said to take more sick days rate than other workers. In addition to absenteeism, there is also an issue in the workplace that one economist calls “presenteeism.” This is the lower productivity among obese workers as compared to their non-obese counterparts.

Unlike smokers who tend to die younger and therefore eventually give the healthcare system a break (if we can call it that), obese person tend to have about the same life expectancy as others: “Beta blockers for heart disease, diabetes drugs, and other treatments are keeping the obese alive longer, with the result that they incur astronomically high medical expenses in old age just like their slimmer peers.”

Obesity threatens our country’s fiscal and physical health. What do you think is the best way to address America’s obesity epidemic? Do you think obese persons are victims of discrimination?