Far be it from me to deny the undeniable, but the fact that obese people have higher annual health care costs does not mean they have higher lifetime costs. It therefore does not follow that reducing obesity would reduce total medical spending in the long run. In fact, a study published last year in PLoS Medicine reached the opposite conclusion: Because obese people tend to die sooner than thin people do, the researchers found, eliminating obesity would increase spending on health care. "Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases," the authors wrote, "this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained. Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures" (emphasis added). Overeating, like smoking, seems to be one of those risky habits that saves taxpayers money (especially when you take into account not only health care but Social Security spending). If reducing demands on the public treasury is the aim, such habits should be encouraged.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Obesity, like smoking, saves taxpayers money
Jacob Sullum at Reason Magazine asks "if obesity saves taxpayers money, should it be encouraged?"