Examining the Costs of Treating Childhood Obesity

Susan Farley
Published Online: Thursday, February 1, 2007

Health care market researchers at Thomson Medstat investigated the childhood obesity epidemic and found significant differences in treatment for insured patients versus uninsured patients. They discovered that obese children with public health insurance (Medicaid) had different coverage and health status than obese children covered by private insurance. Their 2004 data refer to children aged 17 years and younger who had been treated for obesity at least once. The researchers found that:

•Children covered by Medicaid are nearly 6 times more likely to be treated for a diagnosis of obesity than those covered by private insurance

•Children treated for obesity are roughly 3 times more expensive for the health system than the average insured child

•Annual health care costs are about $6700 for children treated for obesity covered by Medicaid and about $3700 for obese children with private insurance

•The national cost of childhood obesity is estimated at ~$11 billion for children with private insurance and $3 billion for those with Medicaid

•Children diagnosed with obesity are 2 to 3 times more likely to be hospitalized

•Children treated for obesity are far more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders or bone and joint disorders than nonobese children

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.

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