KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Recent Studies And Surveys

Health Affairs: Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity: Payer- and Service-Specific Estimates -- Using data from 1998 and 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys (MEPS) – "a nationally representative survey of the civilian noninstitutionalized population that quantifies a person's total annual medical spending by type of service and source of payment" – the authors estimate the health cost of obesity in the U.S. is $147 billion. "Across all payers, per capita medical spending for the obese is $1,429 higher per year, or roughly 42 percent higher, than for someone of normal weight. In aggregate, the annual medical burden of obesity has increased from 6.5 percent to 9.1 percent of annual medical spending and could be as high as $147 billion per year (in 2008 dollars) based on the NHEA [National Health Expenditure Accounts] estimate," according to the study. In conclusion, the authors write, "The take-home message is that without a strong and sustained reduction in obesity prevalence, obesity will continue to impose major costs on the health system for the foreseeable future. And although health reform may be necessary to address health inequities and rein in rising health spending, real savings are more likely to be achieved through reforms that reduce the prevalence of obesity and related risk factors, including poor diet and inactivity" (7/27).

The Commonwealth Fund: Comparative Effectiveness Research and Evidence-Based Decision Making Across Four Countries: The U.K., Germany, France, and Australia -- This series of issue briefs explores comparative effectiveness research efforts in the U.K., Germany, France and Australia. Video comments by comparative effectiveness experts from each country are also available online (7/28).

Center for Studying Health System Change: Suburban Poverty and the Health Care Safety Net – "Although suburban poverty has increased in the past decade, the availability of health care services for low-income and uninsured people in the suburbs has not kept pace," write the authors of a recent study that offers a "community-level examination of the suburban safety net: the health care providers and services available to low-income people in the suburbs" from the five metropolitan areas of Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami and Seattle. "[B]ecause suburban poverty is often dispersed, building a comprehensive system that stands apart from the urban safety net may not be practical or cost-effective in many suburbs, especially because low-income groups will continue to migrate to new areas," the study authors write. "Instead, state and local governments and community groups could improve access to appropriate care by subsidizing services through existing providers; supporting more targeted and flexible approaches to providing services where people live, for example, through school-based clinics and mobile vans; and addressing transportation needs" (7/30).

Healthways, Inc.: Potential Medicare Savings Through Prevention & Health Risk Reduction: "Government investment in programs and solutions aimed at improving the health and well-being of Americans both before and after entry into Medicare could yield up to $1.4 trillion in savings over 10 years," according to a report released Thursday Center for Health Research (CHR) at Healthways, Inc., writes a CHR description of the document. The analysis of the actuarial model used in the study "shows that even modest reductions or delays in the advent and progression of population health risk can result in significantly reduced cost, even after accounting for corresponding increases in life expectancy" (7/30).

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