I want to comment about the recently published article on Obesity and how it is going to bankrupt the US economy. All of us are feeling the ever rising cost of healthcare costs every year and this is money that will never reach our pockets through higher wages. The article draws attention to the role obesity plays in the nation’s mounting healthcare spending. This spending towards tackling obesity is expected to reach $4.6 trillion dollars annually and consume 19.8 percent of the GDP by 2020. Managing or tackling this particular condition alone will help reduce the overall healthcare expenditure.
This is not new. United States’ rising rate of obesity has been well-known and documented. But businesses, governments and individuals are only now coming to grips with the costs of those extra pounds. These costs are now even greater than believed only a few years ago. A new study that recently came out indicates that the additional medical spending due to obesity is double previous estimates and exceeds even those of smoking. What is the primary reason for obesity? To start with, nutritious food costs more than junk food. Most of the people prefer to eat junk as it is convenient and cheap compared to fruits and vegetables. The government needs to provide subsidies towards the right sector. It is not just the healthcare costs but also the additional cost of fuel in cars and planes because of obese people. These additional costs are borne by people who are not obese. This is similar to the healthcare cost that is borne by healthy people towards the care of people who have unhealthy lifestyles. Remember how second hand smoking really caused a stir with the policy makers? They responded only after doctors and researchers learned that it, too, was causing lung cancer.
Do we need to wait for something catastrophic to happen or learn about before we address this issue? No. We need to create an environment both at work and at home to promote healthy lifestyles and active living. Without it, the nation will end up in an abyss, eating more and more into the limited healthcare resources eventually bankrupting the nation. One of the things I would like to highlight is healthcare reform law, which contains a provision that allows employers to charge obese workers 30-50 percent more in premiums. I completely agree with this and this is just a first step towards this dreaded epidemic.