Obese elderly pose increased costs for Medicare

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Medicare spends $38,000 more for an elderly adult with obesity compared to a Medicare beneficiary of normal weight, according to a new RAND Corp. study.

An analysis of nearly 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older found that of all the chronic illnesses, only eliminating obesity would dramatically affect future healthcare costs, according to the study, "Future Health and Medical Care Spending of the Elderly."

Other chronic illnesses contribute to higher Medicare costs, but those beneficiaries don't live as long as beneficiaries without chronic illness. Obese beneficiaries, however, live as long as the beneficiaries of normal weight, the study found.

Starting at age 70, an obese person will cost Medicare about $149,000, the study found, an amount that is 20% more than for the merely overweight and 35% more than spending on a normal-weight person.

The complete study is available at http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9146-1/RAND_RB9146-1.pdf.