Losing weight could save the United States a lot of money. Enrolling overweight adults aged 60–64 in a “proven weight loss program” if they are prediabetic or at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) could save billions of dollars in lifetime Medicare costs, according to a report published in the September issue of Health Affairs (2011; 30 [9], 1673–79). Depending on eligibility parameters and program participation, “Medicare savings could range from approximately $7 billion to $15 billion . . . for a single ‘wave’ of eligible people,” study authors concluded.

“Rising chronic disease prevalence among Medicare beneficiaries, including new enrollees, is a key driver of health care spending,” stated the authors. “Randomized trials have shown that lifestyle modification interventions such as those in the National Diabetes Prevention Program clinical trial reduce the incidence of chronic disease and that community-based programs applying the same principles can produce net health care savings.” Appropriate programs would focus on weight loss and on reducing or eliminating symptoms associated with diabetes and CVD. To do this, study authors proposed that Medicare offer behavior change incentives such as reimbursements.