Last year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report about the rising costs in health care, including the reasons. Media headline’s based on this report included “CBO – Obesity will Decimate Future Health Costs and Care” and “Obesity’s Punch to the Gut”.
You know, sometimes I feel like a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist, but I’m pretty sure it’s not me - The CBO report stated clearly that obesity was NOT a major cause for rising healthcare costs. So what in fat hell happened here?
CBO- Obesity will decimate future health costs and care
This article included a quote from the CBO report: “per capita spending on health care for adults would rise by 65 percent—from $4,550 in 2007 to $7,500 in 2020.”
The quote is accurate, but they cut off the last part of the quote which reverses the meaning. The actual CBO report says: ” per capita spending on health care for adults would rise by 65 percent – from $4,550 in 2007 to $7500 in 2020largely as a result of the continuation of underlying trends in health care that have led to rapidly increasing spending for all adults regardless of weight.” (emphasis mine) I have a hard time believing that this was accidental as that would require me to defend the idea that a professional journalist cannot tell when a sentence ends.
“Obesity’s Punch to the Gut”
The Boston Globe ran this headline and also used numbers from the report that seemed large out of context to paint a picture of obesity as the culprit for healthcare costs, thereby grossly misrepresenting the conclusions of the report. It almost seems like they had decided what it the article was going to say before they read the report. Maybe they just didn’t want to give up this witty, witty headline. (sarcasm meter 10 out of 10)
McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published a report called “Accounting for the Cost of Health Care in the United States,” Using a comparative analysis of the US with Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom they found, among other things, that Americans are indeed fatter, but that we are not significantly sicker. We do spend a lot of health care ” $650 billion above expected, even when adjusting for the relative wealth of the US economy.” So, was obesity the culprit?
Can we attribute this additional spending to the fact that the US population is less healthy overall than people in other developed countries? Our analysis suggests that the answer is largely no. In fact, disease prevalence in the United States is slightly lower than in peer OECD countries despite an increase in the burden of chronic disease and growth in risk factors such as obesity.
Adam Carroll put information from that report into a very illustrative graph (obesity -which is not a disease- and diseases correlated with obesity are included in the blue section).
Also let’s remember that “costs of obesity” are not the same as costs of obesity hysteria and that many of the costs of diets are included in this figure, but that’s a topic for another blog.
If you are interested in where our healthcare spending goes, I highly recommend reading the report. For now, remember that we know that no weight loss intervention ever studied has been proven to effectively get obese people into the “normal” BMI range longterm, we now know that getting them into the normal BMI range isn’t going to have a discernible impact on healthcare costs because fat people aren’t having a discernible impact on healthcare costs. We know that obesity isn’t the reason for the huge rise in healthcare costs, we cannot even find a causal relationship between health and weight despite a mountain of attempts, and many studies tell us that healthy habits create similar health outcomes in bodies of a wide variety of sizes.
Yet outlets that call themselves “news” continue to lie to us saying that diets work if you try hard enough, that obesity is causing an insurmountable rise in healthcare costs, that we have to get people to lose weight or we’re all going to go broke paying for their healthcare, and that extra weight causes health problems. Is it because they are getting ad dollars from people selling weight loss? Is it because people like to read about how fat people are the cause of all the world’s problems? Do they really believe what they write? Are they substituting “everybody knows” for actual facts? Are professional journalists really incapable of discerning between the middle and end of a sentence? I don’t know and that’s not what’s most important to me right now.
What’s important to me is that we can choose to stop buying these lies wholesale. We can stop shopping for our information at Merde Mart right now. We are responsible for verifying our news. Often is doesn’t even take a huge effort, these lies are debunked by a simple reading of the CBO report. We also need to consider that other people are being lied to and buying the lies. This may include doctors, teachers, healthcare providers, your mother, and plenty of people who comment on this blog. We are responsible for making sure that we get good information and unfortunately, that is not always simple or quick. We live in a 24 hour news cycle that produces some highly suspect news. I suggest that you verify your information because, whether accidentally or on purpose, the media is lying to us.
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