New U-M Study: Health Costs Higher for Severely Obese

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ANN ARBOR — The Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan released a report that compares the health risks and costs of moderately to severely obesity.

The report analyzed 29,691 obese individuals covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The study reveals that the severly obese in comparison to the moderately obese had 50 percent higher annual costs and were 1 to 3 times more likely to have a serious chronic condition. Moderately obese individuals have 27 perecent higher annual health costs and were 2 to 3 times more likely to have multiple chronic or serious health conditions.

“While it is important to focus on all of those who are above a healthy weight, this analysis points to the need for a focused effort on the severely obese population in particular,” says Marianne Udow-Phillips, the center’s director. “If Michigan health insurers, practitioners, businesses and the Department of Community Health are going to invest in reducing obesity, a targeted effort on the severely obese may have the biggest impact.”

The study also found that those who are severly obese are highly motivated to reduce their weight. The study names bariatric surgery and intensive behavorial therapy as two types of interventions that are effective in reducing obesity.

“It appears that sustainable weight reduction for the severely obese is achievable through effective, evidence-based treatments,” says Udow-Phillips. “By focusing efforts on proven interventions for this targeted population, we can improve their health while reducing health care costs.”

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