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MedPAC Urges Public Health Initiatives to Address Obesity, Citing Chronic Disease Care Cost Benefits


The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its yearly report to Congress on June 15, 2007.  In the study -- “Promoting Greater Efficiency in Medicare” – the influential group addresses the changing demographics of the Medicare population and how to make the Medicare program more efficient in light of these new characteristics.  One recommendation to Congress highlighted in the study is that public health initiatives should be put into place to promote healthy lifestyles as a way of attacking obesity and preventing the occurrence of multiple chronic diseases that stem from being obese.  Taking these steps, MedPAC contends, will lower the cost of overall health care spending.


The report notes a meaningful increase in the portion of Medicare beneficiaries receiving treatment for chronic diseases, which in turn has driven much of the increase in Medicare spending over the last two decades.  MedPAC identifies obesity as one of three primary reasons for this trend --  a “particularly important risk factor because it has spread across all age groups and segments of society.”  Data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) indicate that the share of Medicare spending attributable to obese beneficiaries nearly tripled from 9.4 percent in 1987 to 24.8 percent in 2002. 


To address the urgent challenge of obesity, the report urges new public health programs to promote improved nutrition and more physical activity in both the Medicare population and in younger populations.  MedPAC also notes that many Americans can address obesity through behavioral changes, while there is a group of Americans with genetic predispositions to being overweight who may require other solutions and approaches.  For a copy of the MedPAC study, click here




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