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Weight-loss programs might save Medicare billions

Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2011

Medicare could save billions of dollars if people who were pre-diabetic or at risk for cardiovascular disease took part in community-based weight-loss programs, a study finds. Researchers projected cost savings for the government healthcare program if millions of people in the U.S. age 60 to 64 participated in a program that helped them lose weight and gain more healthful lifestyle habits. They based their findings on an existing YMCA diabetes prevention program that is, as of this year, at 50 facilities in 24 states. In a study of a similar program, participants lost an average 7% of their body weight and maintained that over 2.8 years. The prevalence of diabetes went down 71% among people age 60 and older. Their projection was based on a scenario in which the program would roll out across the country and target adults age 60 to 64--those not eligible for Medicare yet--who are pre-diabetic, with a body mass index greater than 24 (considered overweight or obese), and who show risk factors for cardiovascular disease.