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U.S. health care costs up 29% because of obesity

The overall cost of health care in America is up 29%, varying greatly among states, according to a new report from Cornell University.

“We have, for the first time, estimated the percentage of health care spending that is devoted to obesity, using microdata for each state,” the research’s co-author John Cawley told Science Daily.

Cawley said that the study found states including New York, California, Arizona and Pennsylvania devoted 5% to 6% of their total medical budget to obesity-related treatments. But other states, like North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, spent more than twice that amount — over 12% of all their health care dollars went toward taking care of people with complications from obesity.

Across the country, the study found that medical expenditures — including those paid through private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid — focused on obesity-related procedures and therapies for adults rose from just over 6% in 2001 to nearly 85 in 2015 — a 29% increase.

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“Once again, we find dramatic differences across states in the fraction of Medicaid spending that is devoted to obesity-related illness,” Cawley said. “For example, over 2001 to 2015, Kentucky and Wisconsin devoted over 20% of their Medicaid spending to obesity-related illness. In contrast, in New York, 10.9% of Medicaid spending was devoted to obesity-related illness, and the average for the U.S. as a whole was 8.23% during that period.”

The study said that the differences across states in obesity treatment need could be driven by a number of factors, including health care access, cost and overall obesity prevalence.

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