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  • Michael Rosen Michael Rosen
  • Investment Insights are written by Angeles' CIO Michael Rosen

    Michael has more than 30 years experience as an institutional portfolio manager, investment strategist, trader and academic.

WEIGHTY

Published: 01-08-2015

Among new year resolutions, losing weight tops the list for the majority of Americans. Actually, I made up that statistic, but in my defense, (a) it probably is true, and (b) it most certainly should be true.

As the chart below shows, 50 years ago, more than half the population was at a healthy weight, with about one-third overweight and less than one-in seven obese. The good news is that the percentage of overweight Americans hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years, it’s still about one-in-three. The bad news is that more than one-in-five migrated from healthy to obese. So maybe we can say that we don’t have too many overweight people, we have too many obese people.

weight

There are many diseases and ailments that are positively correlated with weight gain, unfortunately, this correlation between weight and disease is not linear: the prevalence of weight-related diseases, such as diabetes, is multiples higher among the obese than among the overweight.

There are many causes/explanations for the alarming surge in obesity. Much of the popular media lay the blame with evil corporations (which, of course, is a redundant phrase, as all corporations are evil, by definition) that (literally) push down our throats high-caloric, high-fat, high-sugar processed food-like substances that we unwittingly and helplessly consume in ever-rising amounts. There may be some truth to this. But we also encourage the consumption of low-cost, high-calorie products by subsidizing food by cost, not by quality or balance, especially among the poor, including the 47 million receiving food stamps (see graph below).

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I’m not sure what the plan is to reduce the number obese (there may be no plan), but I did see that our government does plan to adopt new billing standards. The International Statistical Classifications of Diseases (known as ICD) was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). They recently released version 10 (sort of like Windows), which will now be adopted by the US government. Version 9 had about 14,000 different diagnoses codes and about 4,000 procedural codes. The “improved” Version 10 has nearly five times as many diagnoses codes (68,000 versus the 14,000 heretofore) and, impressively, more than 87,000 procedural codes (a 22-fold increase). Some examples of the new codes are (I’m not making this up):

• W5611XD: Bitten by sea lion, subsequent encounter
• W6152XA: Struck by goose, initial encounter
• V9130XA: Hit or struck by falling object due to accident to merchant ship, initial
encounter
• W2202XA: Walked into lamppost, initial encounter
• V9027XA: Drowning and submersion due to falling or jumping from burning water-skis,
initial encounter
• V9542XD: Forced landing of spacecraft injuring occupant, subsequent encounter
• V9603XD: Balloon collision injuring occupant, subsequent encounter

It’s clear that the new billing system will increase the demand for more capable (and expensive) software, as well as more administrative jobs, so that’s great. It’s not so clear how this reduces the number of obese, but I’m sure someone in government has a good plan that will be shared with us in due course.

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