July 28, 2009

Obesity: One Arm of the Healthcare Clamp on Freedom

Justin Katz

The question is who should pay the premium for lifestyles that increase healthcare costs because of obesity?

Obesity's not just dangerous, it's expensive. New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who's normal weight. Overall obesity-related health spending reaches $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago, says the study published Monday by the journal Health Affairs.

To some extent, the cost is currently spread out across insurance products, although the amount of the patient's contribution varies hugely depending on their coverage. Since the average is pulled up by ailments that tend to increase in prevalence later in life, lifelong obesity is surely a factor in Medicare costs, as well.

As government officials ratchet up the hard sell for their healthcare-based power grab, we should consider that mandates preventing providers and insurance companies from adjusting prices based on preexisting conditions ensure that more of the cost of obesity is borne by other people than the patient and that a government-run system would take the responsibility entirely upon itself. Of course, being the government, it will then translate that responsibility into authority to dictate behavior.

RTI health economist Eric Finkelstein offers a blunt message for lawmakers trying to revamp the health care system: "Unless you address obesity, you're never going to address rising health care costs." ...

It's not an individual problem but a societal problem — as the nation's health bill illustrates — that will take society-wide efforts to reverse, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas] Frieden stressed. His agency last week released a list of strategies it wants communities to try. They include: increasing healthy foods and drinks in schools and other public venues; building more supermarkets in poor neighborhoods; encouraging more mothers to breast-feed, which protects against childhood obesity; and discouraging consumption of sodas and other sweetened beverages.

If you allow the government to take responsibility for your health, then any activity affecting your health becomes a public act. The consequence of this shift will take decades to work its way through the culture, but its metastasis through the organs of our freedom will be inexorable.

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When bacon is outlawed, only outlaws will have bacon.

Hey, here's an idea. Why not have Randy Newman reprise "Short People" but change the focus to fatsos? Well, I didn't say it was a good idea.

Please, democrats, keep the ideas coming. Maybe the voters who elected you will wake up.

Posted by: chuckR at July 28, 2009 8:54 AM

Fat people? Let's focus on the smokers first. They pay more for life insurance, but I've never been asked about it with regard to my health insurance.

Yeah, obesity is a lifestyle choice for *some* obese people but not all. Smoking is a lifestyle choice for all smokers. Make 'em pay for it on both ends.

Posted by: Patrick at July 28, 2009 12:53 PM

Not a smoker, but they are taxed enough to look attractive to smuggle. I kid, I kid. But we all better hope they don't tax food like they do ciggies. And the best way to have that hope realized is to vote the self righteous prigs out.

Posted by: chuckR at July 28, 2009 5:25 PM

I am beginning to wonder if the "obesity thing" isn't a bunch of lard. I hear incredible projections in the news "in 40 years, 50% of Americans will be obese", etc. Still, I look around and wonder what is the definition of "obesity". I see a number of people who might be "overweight", but not all that many that I would term "obese". I will be killed for this, but I have noiticed all my life that lower income people have a higher tendancy to being "overweight". I think it is just another attempt to create a tax. Why not call it the "BMI Tax".

A number of years ago I worked in Manhattan, cigarettes were highly taxed then, but not as now. In every large office building there were people who went from office to office with shopping carts full of "North Carolina" cigarettes for sale. At least then, North Carolina did not tax cigarettes. I don't know if this still prevails. I suppose they will have to switch to "Snow Balls" and "twinkies" that "fell of the truck".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 29, 2009 4:12 PM
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