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Study: Obesity pushing health costs up

July 27, 2009 1:20:42 PM PDT
While Congress debates ways to reduce escalating health care costs, a just-released study is focusing on the price tag for obesity across the nation.The findings determine that spending on obesity-related illnesses have doubled in the past 10 years.

Health economists warn that unless Americans change their eating habits, a dip in the cost of health care cannot be expected.

The new numbers were released Monday morning by the nonprofit research group RTI International, and cover the years between 1998 to 2006.

According to the study, one in three Americans is now considered to be obese.

Prescription drugs for obesity-related illness account for much of the rise in spending. For example, Medicare spends about $600 more per year on prescription medications on an obese patient than for a normal-weight patient.

Some local residents said it didn't seem fair to target a particular group when it comes to the rising costs of health care.

"I think everybody's different, and everyone should be given help where necessary. We shouldn't single out any one person or any one group," said Paul Lange.

Economists say unless obesity is addressed, it'll be hard to control the costs of health care.

"Certainly people who don't take care of themselves are at greater risk, and certainly it's a strain on insurance companies," said local resident Keith Shimfessel.

Shimfessel said he recently underwent bypass surgery after suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He said he recently lost 60 pounds.

Health economists said ailments like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in many cases are preventable, and if more people changed their lifestyle, they said you wouldn't see such a spike in the cost of health care.

The study says the obesity rate has gone up 37 percent.

Eyewitness News Reporters Lisa Hernandez and Leanne Suter contributed to this report.

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