Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Should Uncle Sam feed Seniors cheesesteaks or cantaloupe?

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Aug• 17•09

Obesity is  growing problem in the United States.  As more people become increasingly obese, mortality rates will increase (or at least decrease less slowly than would have otherwise been the case).  However, increased mortality may be a blessing for Uncle Sam.  As more elderly die earlier from obesity-related diseases, the government will be able to reduce its fiscal responsibility to pay for health care for these individuals.  In an earlier post, I cited a study that found that a rise in obesity can save governments money.

Another study by Michaud et al. (2009) has contradicted this finding.  While obese individuals will have shorter life expectancies, they do have higher health care costs in each year in which they live.  Taking into account a variety of trends that affect life expectancy–such as obesity and diabetes–Michaud and co-authors find that “Together, the reduction in smoking and the rise in obesity have increased net public-sector liabilities by $430bn, or approximately 4% of the current debt burden. Larger effects are observed for specific public programs: annual spending is 10% higher in the Medicaid program, and 7% higher for Medicare.”

It seems like it pays for Uncle Sam to feed grandma cantaloupe and not cheesesteaks.

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