Fat People Cheaper to Treat

150_MedicalConventional wisdom says that communities will save on health care by getting people to lose weight and quit smoking. But a recent Dutch study finds that, compared to obese people and smokers, healthy people place a greater burden on health care systems! The reason: it costs more to care for people who live longer. The study found that healthy people lived about 84 years, costing $417,000 in health care from age 20 on. Obese people live about 80 years, costing $371,000, and smokers lived 77 years, at a health care cost of $326,000.
"This throws a bucket of cold water onto the idea that obesity is going to cost trillions of dollars," said Patrick Basham, a professor of health politics at Johns Hopkins University who was unconnected to the study. He said that government projections about obesity costs are frequently based on guesswork, political agendas, and changing science.

"If we're going to worry about the future of obesity, we should stop worrying about its financial impact," he said.

http://news.wired.com/dynamic/stories/O/OBESITY_COST?SITE=WIRE&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2008-02-05-02-58-08

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Fat people are cheaper to treat not only because of life expectancy but because health insurers can deny coverage to the obese. Causing a lot of people to either pay out of pocket, go into bankruptcy or wait to late to seek medical treatment.
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"The study...did not take into account other potential costs of obesity and smoking, such as lost economic productivity"

1) People who die sooner are contributing less toward healthcare costs. Dead people don't:

- pay insurance premiums
- pay hospital and/or doctor copayments
- fund the government through taxes

Also, people who get sick earlier in life are more likely to miss work, hurting productivity and costing companies more.
It would be nice to see a study that considers revenues and costs from each group.

2) Smokers and other unhealthy people currently pay higher premiums for insurance. Does this study mean rates will go up for the healthy?
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Actual costs of treatment aside, healthy people won't be in the hospitals as much. This article doesn't take into account bed shortages, the cost of updating beds and hospital floors to account for heavier people, doctors being tied up taking care of obesity-related illnesses, etc.

And I question the accuracy of the numbers presented here. If you divide cost by the number of years, you still find obese people being cheaper. If the higher cost of healthy people is truly just because they live longer, then that should be reflected in a year-by-year cost. I find it difficult to believe that a healthy person who suddenly drops dead at 84 would be more expensive than someone who lives the last 20 years of his/her life with diabetes, heart disease, possible amputations, heart bypasses, etc.
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Jaimee is right, although it's possible that the researchers factored that in. But, you'll also see studies that suggest the opposite result -- it all depends on who is doing the research and to what end. Scientists and statisticians strangely can find data to support whatever cause is dear to their sponsors.

Regardless, this is an intrinsic risk with all socialized medicine schemes. Because the public in aggregate shoulders the cost of caring for people, the State uses this as an excuse to get into peoples' lives and control what they eat, how much they drink, what hobbies they have, &c. When folks are responsible for their own helth care costs (or purchasing insurance), they can make decisions that maximize their individual utility, whether that means eating lots of Twinkies, riding motorcycles, being a boozer, whatever. When you adopt a nanny state, liberty is the first thing that gets checked at the door.

Straight talk from Sid.
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