Health care market researchers atThomson Medstat investigated the childhoodobesity epidemic and found significantdifferences in treatment for insuredpatients versus uninsured patients. Theydiscovered that obese children with publichealth insurance (Medicaid) had differentcoverage and health status thanobese children covered by private insurance.Their 2004 data refer to childrenaged 17 years and younger who had beentreated for obesity at least once. Theresearchers found that:
•Children covered by Medicaid arenearly 6 times more likely to be treatedfor a diagnosis of obesity thanthose covered by private insurance
•Children treated for obesity areroughly 3 times more expensive forthe health system than the averageinsured child
•Annual health care costs are about$6700 for children treated for obesitycovered by Medicaid and about$3700 for obese children with privateinsurance
•The national cost of childhood obesityis estimated at ~$11 billion for childrenwith private insurance and $3billion for those with Medicaid
•Children diagnosed with obesity are2 to 3 times more likely to be hospitalized
•Children treated for obesity are farmore likely to be diagnosed withmental health disorders or boneand joint disorders than nonobesechildren
Ms. Farley is a freelance medicalwriter based in Wakefield, RI.