Introduction: Many studies document that overweight and obese adults have substantially higher medical care expenditures than do adults of normal weight, but comparable data for children or adolescents are few. This study examines patterns of expenditure for medical care and use of medical care services among a sample of North Carolina adolescents enrolled in Medicaid, stratified by body mass index categories.
Methods: North Carolina public health records, which include clinically measured height and weight, were linked to 2004 North Carolina Medicaid enrollment records to find adolescents aged 12-18 years whose records matched. We then examined all paid claims for 2004 of the 3528 adolescents whose records matched. Total expenditures by sex and race, hospital costs, physician costs, and prescription drug costs were tabulated and stratified by body mass index. We also examined, by body mass index, the percentage of adolescents who had a paid claim for selected diagnosed health conditions.
Results: Overall, and for most demographic and service categories, overweight adolescents and at-risk-for-overweight adolescents had higher average Medicaid expenditures than did normal-weight adolescents. Some of these differences were statistically significant. Overweight adolescents were significantly more likely to have a paid claim for services related to diabetes, asthma, or other respiratory conditions.
Conclusion: Although based on a small sample, our results suggest that overweight has negative health consequences as early as adolescence. Further studies with larger samples could help confirm the findings of our study.