Morbidly Obese Seen as Huge Future Hospital Burden

Morbidly obese Americans, whose numbers are rising rapidly today and whose average hospital expenses far outstrip other people’s, are likely to become a terrible drain on hospital resources in the near future, a recent study showed.     The research, which examined almost 8 million discharge records in 2005 from over 1,000 community hospitals, found that the median hospital charge was $14,147 for non-obese patients, $15,623 for obese patients, and $20,046 for morbidly obese patients. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, and morbid obesity is characterized by a BMI of 40 or more. The research team controlled for age and diabetes status.

After the scientists adjusted for sex, age, race, diabetes status, hospital admission type and length of hospital stay, hospital charges were 6.1 percent higher for obese patients and 18.7 percent higher for morbidly obese patients, compared with charges for the non-obese.
   
Obesity has been rising dramatically over the past two decades, yet the morbidly obese population has increased twice as fast as the less obese.
   
The study, which was published online in Value in Health, was conducted by Sunny Kim, of Florida International University, and Kristina Boye, of Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, using data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s 2005 Nationwide Inpatient Survey.
   
“Because of high levels of hospital resource consumption, the rapidly increasing prevalence of morbid obesity among inpatients is likely to be a burden to hospital finance systems,” the researchers said.
   
The 2005 Nationwide Inpatient Survey recorded data on 30.8 million hospitalizations, 1.87 million of which involved obese or morbidly obese people. Patients were hospitalized most commonly for congestive heart failure (among non-obese patients), coronary atherosclerosis and other forms of heart disease (among the obese), and nutritional endocrine and metabolic disorders (among the morbidly obese).
   
Among all hospitalizations, 20.8 percent were for diabetes, even though only some 7 percent of Americans have the disorder. Patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes were considerably more likely to be obese or morbidly obese than non-diabetics.


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