Tom Harte: Hi! I am Tom Harte, Board member of the National Association of Health Underwriters. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the current generation of children will be the first in America to have a shorter lifespan than their parent's generation; thanks largely to obesity related diseases.
Obesity and their associated health problems have a significant economic impact on our health care system. In fact, obesity is a significant driver of increased medical costs and undermines your health and financial well-being.
Recent studies show that obese Americans cost the country about $147 billion in weight related medical bills in 2008; double of what it was a decade ago. It now accounts for more than 9% of our total medical spending. Overall, the United States spends about 2 trillion a year in medical costs associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer; and all three are linked to smoking and obesity; the nation's two largest risk factors.
For obese people spending on hospital care is 36% higher and medication costs are 77% higher than for people of normal weight. The new healthcare law, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows employers to give further reduction in health insurance premiums to employees who practice healthy behavior; such as maintaining a healthy weight.
Beginning in 2014, employers can allow discounts for up to 50% in the cost of individual or family health care premiums and starting in 2011 small businesses will be eligible to receive grant funding to help implement wellness programs.
By recognizing the inherent link between wellness and the cost of health care is evident that taking care of ourselves not only gives us a better quality of life, it also improves everyone's bottom-line.