America’s obese folks – that’s over 1/3 of us – cost billions each year, according to new research. The expense of the extra pounds is reflected not only in higher health insurance premiums everyone pays to cover the extra medical costs of obesity, but also in costs of rebuilding our environment to accommodate heavier, bigger people.
The researchers noted that the non-obese pay the startling costs of obesity just as non-smokers get lung cancer from second-hand smoke. The 2010 health care act permits employers to charge obese workers 30% to 50% more for health insurance if they decline to participate in a certified weight-loss program, to help ship some of the obesity cost back to the source. Obesity costs in the study were:
- Obese men take 5.9 more sick days from work a year, and women 9.4 more sick days. This absenteeism costs employers $6.4 billion each year.
- Obese workers are less productive (because of pain or other disabilities), losing one month of productivity each year. This costs $30 billion a year.
- Obese men rack up an extra $1152 each year on medical spending, and women an extra $3613. That comes to $190 billion a year in additional medical spending as a result of obesity, or 20.6% of U.S. health care expenditures.
- Those extra medical costs cause higher taxes to support Medicaid and higher health insurance premiums, costing each of us (including the non-obese) $3220 a year for obese females and $967 a year for obese males.
- It takes twice as much energy to move 250 lbs. as it does to move 125 lbs. As a result, vehicles burn a total of 938 million extra gallons of gas each year to carry obese passengers. That’s an extra $4 billion.
- Train cars are being remade to provide wider seats.
- Blue Bird is widening the front doors of school buses so wider kids can fit.
- Hospitals are replacing wall-mounted toilets with floor models to hold the obese. They are switching to plus-size wheel chairs at twice the price and ordering mini-cranes to hoist the obese from bed.
The study found one good thing about obesity; an obese man is 64% less likely to be arrested for a crime than a normal-weight man.