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June 18, 2024

Obesity will cost U.S. up to $9.1 trillion in medical costs over next decade, House GOP warns

EXCLUSIVE — Obesity will cost the United States trillions of dollars in excess medical expenditures over the next decade, according to a new report from Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee.

Last year, Republicans on the JEC, which is led by Chairman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Vice Chairman David Schweikert (R-AZ), estimated that obesity would cost the federal government $4.1 trillion over the next 10 years, but this year’s estimate is more than double that, with the report placing the total cost at between $8.2 trillion and $9.1 trillion over the decade.

The new calculation includes government spending on healthcare through Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private spending on obesity. There are many costs associated with obesity. For instance, those suffering from it have an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, strokes, and asthma — all of which involve costly interventions.

Schweikert told the Washington Examiner that the U.S. has tools at its disposal to address the obesity crisis and that failing to address the matter is “immoral.”

“In the next decade, obesity and related diseases will cost as much as $9.1 trillion in excess medical spending,” the Arizona congressman said. “If we help Americans be healthier, we can vastly enhance their quality of life and improve the nation’s fiscal future. Failure to address this growing health crisis is immoral. Society has the tools at our disposal to address this crisis.”

The report found that the obesity epidemic is also eating into the overall size of the U.S. economy because of reductions in labor supply and labor productivity. The economy is expected to be between $13.5 trillion and $14.7 trillion smaller over the next decade because of obesity.

Those reductions will also reduce the federal government’s tax revenue. Up to $2.6 trillion in tax revenue will be lost as a result of the health crisis, according to the report.

And the problem is growing. The report estimates that the share of adults suffering from obesity will rise from between 44.9% and 47.5% this year to between 51.4% and 56.6% by 2034.

“The prevalence and economic costs of obesity continue to grow at an astonishing rate, and finding policies that can reduce the burden of the disease could dramatically improve the United States’ personal and fiscal health,” the report reads.

The report also notes the rise in popularity of obesity-fighting GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro. The headline $9.1 trillion figure does not factor in the growing embrace of such drugs into its calculation. Still, the lawmakers, citing research, noted its potential to be a game changer for obesity.

“These results suggest that there could be substantial reductions in obesity given sufficient uptake of these medications,” the report reads.

A report by Morgan Stanley found that the new class of obesity medications can reduce calorie intake by 20% to 30% daily.

Still, the report notes that the cost of GLP-1s can be “prohibitively expensive” for consumers. Without insurance coverage, the cost of drugs like Ozempic can be nearly $1,000 per month. Even with insurance, it can be up to $300.

But as GLP-1s come off their patents, prices are expected to fall. Two GLP-1s are set to come off patent this year. There is a wide range of estimates for how many people will be taking GLP-1 drugs over the next few years, making the possible economic and cost implications difficult to calculate, according to the report.

“If prices fall enough to where it becomes cost-effective for the federal government to cover these drugs, GLP-1s could drastically improve the nation’s overall fiscal situation, while ensuring Americans live longer, healthier lives,” the report reads.

Twelve percent of adults reported taking the GLP-1 class of drugs to lose weight or treat chronic conditions, such as heart disease or obesity, according to a recent survey by healthcare policy think tank KFF.

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