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Cost of Illegal-Immigrant Obesity Ignored by Gang of Eight?

Recent Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Gang of Eight’s amnesty bill puts the additional costs of Obamacare subsidies at $87 billion. The report, released Tuesday, says 2.6 million more people will be covered under the health law by 2023. Average costs are pegged at $7,200 per person.

Considering who will be given amnesty under the bill, however, the CBO’s figures should probably be higher.

A recent OECD study says that Mexico (where 61 percent of illegal aliens come from) has become one the least healthy nations on the planet, and has eclipsed the United States as the most overweight nation. According to the findings, one-third of Mexicans are obese, including 35 percent of Mexican women. The most common reasons for hospitalization in that country are now obesity-related: heart attacks, high blood pressure, and diabetes (a disease that 15 percent of the country suffers from) — making them the sixth largest national group of sufferers in the world.

According to the American Diabetes Association, in the United States — where diabetes occurs at around half the rate of Mexico — costs to the economy are already estimated at $250 billion a year.

According to 2011 figures from Homeland Security, of the 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S., 6.8 million (61 percent) are from Mexico. Assuming 61 percent of the CBO’s 2.6 million (1.59 million) are from Mexico and share the same diabetes rate, this could mean almost 240 thousand diabetes sufferers will be eligible for coverage under the new health exchanges. Assuming Mexico’s diabetes rate also applies to the next three largest illegal populations — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; together 14 percent of the illegal population — means the CBO’s coverage figure could include an additional 56 thousand sufferers.

Obesity in general is a very expensive condition, according to the OECD.

They estimate it to be responsible for five to ten percent of all health-care expenditures in the U.S., with obese people incurring costs a full one-quarter more than people of “normal weight.” Further, according to the OECD report, obesity leads to general lower productivity with more days being taken off and increased disability claims on the part of workers. Because employers factor in these expectations for overweight job candidates, the OECD concludes that “obesity goes hand in hand with poor job prospects.”

Meanwhile, Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity says the average company of 1,000 employees currently faces $285,000 per year in extra obesity-related costs.

Coupled with health-care costs, obesity-related productivity losses account for over one percent of U.S. GDP every year.

The reason for high obesity rates in Mexico? Genes, says the Economist. According to their research, the poverty argument — that the poor have access to food, but not the right kind of food – is not valid. More impoverished countries such as India or Indonesia have far lower obesity rates, say the OECD’s study (2.4 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, versus Mexico’s 30 percent). The same is true for many similarly poor nations such as Poland, Turkey, and Greece (12.5 percent, 15 percent, and 18 percent, respectively). Also, according to the Economist, Mexican-Americans in the U.S. are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes.

The genetic argument says the OECD’s figures will largely persist in the future, and that the CBO’s projected costs of amnesty in a post-Obamacare America will grow far larger than expected.

Being a national average, the OECD’s 30 percent obesity figure includes but probably does not capture the rate of Mexico’s poor and less educated, a group which is far more likely to be obese, and is no doubt overrepresented in the U.S. illegal alien population. Using an “inequality index” to measure the correlation of obesity and education, the report found that in some countries the most poorly educated can be as much as five times more likely to be obese than someone at the higher end (no figures were available for Mexico). This, coupled with the greater “fertility” of those expecting amnesty, as Jeb Bush noted recently, means the costs of legalization with immediate or future access to Obamacare will be compounded further going forward.

That these very real problems were not factored into CBO’s analysis makes it appear neither dynamic nor comprehensive. The problems associated with obesity, the OECD concludes, are best curbed through preventative care and education. For the U.S., however, the best preventative solution might be to kill the amnesty bill.

Also read: 

Is Obesity a Disease?