While researching a totally different topic, I ran across a recent article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic evaluated healthcare costs for employees and retirees of the Clinic who had continuous benefit coverage from 2001 through 2007. The Mayo Clinic funded the research project. Specifically, they looked at the incremental costs associated with obesity and with smoking. No surprises here, both increased healthcare costs. I found some of the data interesting.
The researchers collected data from a number of administrative sources including patient registration and information provided by employee patients during routine office visits.
Smoking status is routinely collected as part of office visits. The evaluation included over 25,000 current employees and about 5,500 retirees. The baseline characteristics of these healthcare workers are interesting in and of themselves.
Of those who responded, roughly one out of every eight employees smokes. Current and retiree employee healthcare costs were $1,274 (or 16%) and $1,401 (or about 12%) respectively more than their counterparts who do not smoke. There are probably other factors involved such as income and education, but the numbers speak for themselves. Smoking does add significantly to healthcare costs.
The researchers also looked at body mass index and healthcare costs. 57% of the current employees are overweight to morbidly obese as compared to 66% of retirees.
|Body Mass Index
Morbidly Obese 1
Morbidly Obese 2
Like all studies, this one has several limitations. But the basic information is telling. According to Kaiser Family Foundation Minnesota is just about on average with the rest of the US in terms of overweight and obesity rates (63%). I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that the results are likely repeatable elsewhere. Healthcare workers don’t seem to be very good examples of a healthy lifestyle. It does not appear that we are taking our own advice.
Total healthcare costs exceeded $2.6 Trillion in 2010 or about 18% of our gross domestic product. We can expect those numbers to dramatically increase as the population ages, tobacco continues to be subsidized (to the tune of $194 Million in 2010) and our waistbands continue to expand. With the ongoing debate over Obamacare, I would have thought, as a non-journalist, that more in the mainstream media would have picked up on this story rather than chin implants.