THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that obesity accounts for nearly 21 percent of U.S. health care spending, which is more than twice as high as previous estimates.
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The findings strengthen the case for government intervention to prevent obesity, said the researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
The researchers found that an obese person's medical costs are $2,741 a year higher (in 2005 dollars) than if they were not obese. That works out to $190.2 billion a year nationally, or 20.6 percent of total U.S. health spending.
Previous estimates had put the cost of obesity at $85.7 billion a year, or 9.1 percent of total health spending.
"Historically, we've been underestimating the benefit of preventing and reducing obesity," study author John Cawley, a professor of economics and policy analysis and management at Cornell, said in a university news release.
"Obesity raises the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack and diabetes," Cawley said. "For any type of surgery, there are complications [for the obese] with anesthesia, with healing. Obesity raises the costs of treating almost any medical condition. It adds up very quickly."
The study was published recently in the Journal of Health Economics.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCES: Cornell University, news release, April 9, 2012