Blog: Don’t Blame Fat People For High Health Costs

Chances are you’re biased against obese people — it’s a deep and pervasive bias even in our ever-fatter society. But you should avoid the temptation to pin much of the blame for skyrocketing health costs on Americans’ rising weight, argues a persuasive post in The Incidental Economist today.

The Congressional Budget Office just released a new report on how obesity affects American health care spending. There’s no denying it: Obese people cost more in health care spending. It used to be just a little more. Now it’s quite a lot more.

In 1987, per-capita spending on an obese adult was 8 percent higher than on a normal-weight adult, the report found. Now, it’s 38 percent higher. And there are a lot more obese people.

But Dr. Aaron Carroll, writing in The Incidental Economist, illustrates vividly using charts that the American problem with health care spending goes far, far beyond obesity:

Yes, obesity is more prevalent in the US, and yes, caring for it costs real money. But even if we get obesity down to the levels in other countries, it’s not going to magically erase the problem. We are spending two to three times per person what they are. There is no simple fix here. There is no one, and no thing, we can easily blame.

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