Study: Obesity increases for sixth consecutive year

Obesity continues to be a nationwide concern.

Since the Gallup Poll began tracking the national obesity rate in 2008, the number has steadily increased. This year's average is at 27 percent. Growth has been slow, but when two or three out of 10 Americans have a body mass index above 30, it's a situation that health practitioners should be mindful of.

"While there are a variety of factors that are often correlated with rising obesity rates, such as an unhealthy food environment, poor eating habits, increasing portion sizes, and inactivity, experts agree that the health consequences of obesity are real," Dr. James Pope, Senior Vice President and Chief Science Officer at Healthways, said in Gallup's announcement. "Research has shown that the average healthcare costs for an obese individual are over $1,300 more annually than someone who is not obese."

To put this financial burden in real numbers, obesity-related hospital visits can set the health care industry back $105 billion. Smaller medical facilities, especially ones in rural neighborhoods, may not be able to cover the costs of high cholesterol, diabetes and heart attacks.

However, for states that made Gallup's top 10 most obese states, their accounts receivable services may face larger financial issues because all of them have obesity rates of 30 to 35 percent — Mississippi was found to be the most obese state in the nation last year. Before 2013, West Virginia was considered the most obese state between 2010 through 2012.

Gallup found that these communities with a larger obesity population also found that high blood pressure was as a concern for about 35 percent of people in these states. Other issues, like diabetes impacts 14 percent of obese states. On the other hand, the top 10 least obese states had 26 percent of people with high blood pressure and 9.6 percent suffering from diabetes.

"Although slowing and even reversing this trend may seem daunting, even modest weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of initial body weight can lower the health risks associated with obesity," Pope added.

This is the case among children between two and five years old, according to study published in the journal of the American Medical Association. Reports in January found that the obesity rate in 2003-2004 and 2011-2012 dropped 43 percent. Child obesity is one of First Lady Michelle Obama's biggest initiatives, explaining that "one-third of our children are overweight or obese."

While these recent findings are a step in the right direction, researchers from both studies concluded that obesity will continue to be a nationwide problem. 

Hospitals and doctor offices with a larger obesity population should expect to have a busy accounts receivable management department because these staffers will be spending a lot of their time negotiating coverage and payment plans with health insurance providers.

Because obese patients may need to go through an array of medical procedures, accounts receivable workers spend a lot of their time disputing with multiple parties, with the hopes that medical care will be compensated. If hospitals or offices get overwhelmed from a large amount of outstanding accounts, consider outsourcing claims management to Professional Medical Services