Something to think about while you finalize those taxes…


Last Thursday, The Motely Fool posted an article listing 10 Flabbergasting Costs of America’s Obesity Epidemic. I’m sure at this point no one is surprised with the scale and severity of the obesity epidemic, but please find the numbers reposted below, for ease of reference the next time you get into an argument about soda and candy taxes or corn and sugar subsidies with that one libertarian in your office.

“Obesity is costing us big time. Three times more Americans are obese now than were in 1960. Six times more Americans are now extremely obese than a half-century ago. Unfortunately, everyone is paying for this obesity epidemic. How much? Here are 10 flabbergasting numbers related to the costs of obesity:

1. $190 billion — That’s the amount of added medical costs every year that are estimated to stem from obesity-related problems. This total amounts to nearly 21% of total U.S. health care expenditures.

2. 105% — According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institution, this is the increased amount that obese Americans pay for prescription drugs compared to individuals who aren’t obese.

3. $3.4 billion — Call this the cost of the laws of physics. Cars burn around 938 million gallons of gasoline per year more than they would if Americans weighed what they did in 1960. At the current average U.S. gasoline cost of $3.64 per gallon, that adds up to $3.4 billion per year.

4. $164 billion — The Society of Actuaries estimates that U.S. employers lose this amount in productivity annually due to obesity-related issues with employees.

5. $6.4 billion — Every year this amount is estimated to be lost due to employee absenteeism related to obesity.

6. $1 billion —  Another laws of physics annual cost. U.S. airlines consume an extra 350 million gallons of fuel per year due to overweight passengers. At an average jet fuel cost of $2.87 per gallon, those dollars add up.

7. $14.3 billion — This is how much childhood obesity costs the U.S. each year, according to a published study from the Brookings Institution.

8. $62 billion — Medicare and Medicaid spend nearly this amount every year on obesity-related costs. Of course, this really means that taxpayers spend this amount.

9. $66 billion — Columbia University researchers say that if current trends don’t change, obesity-related annual medical costs in the U.S. could increase this amount by 2030 — on top of current expenditures.

10. $580 billion — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts that annual economic productivity loss due to obesity could hit this staggering amount by 2030 unless the current situation changes.”

According to a related WSJ article from Friday (When Your Boss Makes You Pay for Being Fat), “Typically, 20% of a company’s workforce drives 80% of health-care costs… and roughly 70% of health-care costs are related to chronic conditions brought on by lifestyle choices, such as overeating or sedentary behavior… While companies can’t say it outright, many of their measures—such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure—are proxies for obesity” and “six in 10 employers say they plan to impose penalties in the next few years on employees who don’t take action to improve their health.”

Tricky to say whether these aggressive work-place measures will be effective and even trickier to draw the line between legitimate cost saving practices and discrimination. Easy, however, to say that preventive medicine is the cheapest and most effective, so I hope you had some veggies with your lunch today (might I recommend this gem of a salad from The Moosewood Cookbook?) and with the nice weather projected for most of us this week, have considered biking or walking at least part of your commute.