Most Americans understand that the US Healthcare system is starting to strain under the load of the “Baby Boomers,” now entering retirement and a huge potential cost to Medicare. But there’s a second wave of healthcare costs that we are only starting to understand, and it will occur right after this first wave, and last far longer: obesity.
Today, 69% of US adults are overweight (1 in 3 are obese), and children are far worse off – their obesity rates have tripled in a single generation. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign directly addresses childhood obesity, New York Mayor Bloomberg is outlawing huge sizes of soda, Kaiser Permanente is changing focus to wellness and prevention, and our current expenditures to treat obesity are $150 billion / year. So it’s serious, but we’re handing it, right? We are actually in for much worse.
The percentage of American obese projected in 2030 is astounding. Try to imagine if the $150 billion per year (10% of all healthcare) doubled. Add to that the reduction in productivity in the US workforce as obesity takes its awful toll. Why am I mentioning all this? Healthcare reform can’t just be about new ways to pay for it all. We don’t have that kind of money, even if Congress just wants to print more.
It’s time that the Federal Government gets serious about cutting costs, especially here – this growing threat plus already existing trillion-dollar annual deficits will make 2008 look like a picnic. Preventative care, nutrition education, physical fitness in schools, and yes, a public health infrastructure separate from the private tier that offers inexpensive medical care to the uninsured, those on Medicaid, undocumented aliens, etc. This is a hard pill to swallow, I know – if we don’t do something now, our economy will collapse under the weight.