Ten-year Medicare budget impact of increased coverage for anti-obesity intervention

Fang Chen, Wenqing Su, Abhilasha Ramasamy, Tracy Zvenyach, Scott Kahan, Theodore Kyle, Rahul Ganguly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Aims: To estimate the long-term budget impact of expanding Medicare coverage of anti-obesity interventions among adults aged 65 and older in the US. Materials and methods: This study analyzed a representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries from the combined 2008–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Population characteristics, cost and effectiveness of anti-obesity interventions, and the sustainability of weight loss in real-life were modeled to project the budgetary impact on gross Medicare outlay over 10 years. Hypothetical scenarios of 50% and 67% increases in intervention participation above base case were used to model moderate and extensive Medicare coverage expansion of intensive behavior therapy and pharmacotherapy. Results: For each Medicare beneficiary receiving anti-obesity treatment, we estimate Medicare savings of $6,842 and $7,155 over 10 years under moderate and extensive coverage utilization assumptions, respectively. The average cost of intervention is $1,798 and $1,886 per treated participant. Taking the entire Medicare population (treated and untreated) into consideration, the estimated 10-year budget savings per beneficiary are $308 and $339 under moderate and extensive assumptions, respectively. Sensitivity analysis of drug adherence rate and weight-loss efficacy indicated a potential variation of budget savings within 7% and 22% of the base case, respectively. Most of the projected cost savings come from lower utilization of ambulatory services and prescription drugs. Limitations: Due to the scarcity of studies on the efficacy of pharmacotherapy among older adults with obesity, the simulated weight loss and long-term maintenance effects were derived from clinical trial outcomes, in which older adults were mostly excluded from participation. The model did not include potential side-effects from anti-obesity medications and associated costs. Conclusions: This analysis suggests that expanding coverage of anti-obesity interventions to eligible individuals could generate $20–$23 billion budgetary savings to Medicare over 10 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1096-1104
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Medical Economics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Medicare
  • Obesity
  • budget impact
  • coverage
  • pharmacotherapy
  • policy
  • prevention
  • weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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