January 11, 2010

It's Our Habits, Not Our Healthcare

Justin Katz

Redington Jahncke explains why "skepticism turned out to be the correct impulse in the case of the WHO rankings" of nations' healthcare systems, as well as in the case of a Commonwealth Fund study of the "health of nations." It's his conclusion, though, that points toward a new question about Obamacare:

Indeed, lifestyle and behavioral factors, including unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking, etc., are the prime causes of America's number one killer — heart disease. And the reversal of these factors is as important in preventing death from heart disease as any medical treatment. A doctor cannot "administer" lifestyle changes and behavior modification the way he can administer drugs.

Let's put aside, if we can, the probability that the Democrats' healthcare plan, whatever it ultimately turns out to be, will drive costs up even more while decreasing the effectiveness of the healthcare system overall. If we concede that lifestyle and behavior are critical contributors to health — and how can we not concede it? — then what sort of system would be more likely to encourage healthy behavior: A system that requires financially painful, but not physically fatal, treatments and procedures, or one that hides their costs in a combination of employer withholdings and welfare?

A more frightening question: How will the government seek to make you live more healthily when it turns its giant eye toward that problem?

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"How will the government seek to make you live more healthily when it turns its giant eye toward that problem?"

Well, exactly.

Jail is probably out of the question. So they're left with the withholding of gov't services -- like health care??

Posted by: Monique at January 11, 2010 11:55 PM

We already know that healthcare will be rationed under Obamacare. My guess is that instead of encouraging individual responsibility, the whole of society will be made to pay for those who do not have the necessary willpower to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Look for increased taxation and regulation- always the favored tools of statists. The government will decide what we eat and drink. Expect ever more erosion of individual freedoms for the good of the collective.

Posted by: MadMom at January 12, 2010 12:57 AM

A more frightening question: How will the government seek to make you live more healthily when it turns its giant eye toward that problem?

The Giant Eye has decreed that breakfast is now to be served without bacon. The Great Unblinking Orb has also directed that all available farm land be used to grow only broccoli and Belgian endives.

Posted by: Phil at January 12, 2010 6:46 AM

Phil, the Great Unblinking Orb just issued a press release saying it almost forgot about renewable fuels. It has ordered that half of all acreage be devoted to biofuel crops (corn, switchgrass, etc) -- the balance to be planted with broccoli and Belgian endives.

Posted by: Monique at January 12, 2010 7:28 AM

"A more frightening question: How will the government seek to make you live more healthily when it turns its giant eye toward that problem?"

Frightening? Why do I have to pay to subsidize the health care of people who smoke? Or the 400 pound obese man who frequently gets the multi-meal at McDonalds and follows that up with Haagen-Dazs? My health insurance would be lower if it was solely based on paying for my health. Yeah, smokers pay more, but you can't tell me that my health insurance wouldn't be lower in cost if there were no more smokers. Yeah, it's their right to smoke, until they end up in a hospital, hooked up to a breathing machine and the insurance has run out. Then who pays the bill? Same argument I had with my motorcycle-riding neighbor who tells me it's her right to ride without a helmet. I agreed, but that it should be my right to unplug the machines when she crashes and she's a vegetable and the insurance runs out. Why should I pay the bill for her "right"?

If we're going to dole out all kinds of money for health care, then why not pay for prevention? Pay for people to actually go to and use the gym. Pay for people to lose weight, quit smoking, learn to cook healthy for themselves. Again, only if we're paying for everything anyway.

And on a separate note, as others have said, you can't have national health care and open borders at the same time. You can have one without the other, but not both. So where is the GOP to tag immigration reform on to this bill? Maybe if the GOP can get that 41st member in Scott Brown, the negotiating can begin. Dems can have their health care, Republicans can have the immigration reform and the country will be better off for it. Where's that leadership?

Posted by: Patrick at January 12, 2010 7:56 AM

Monique, you forgot the arugula set-asides.

Patrick, you have to subsidize the unhealthy because federal and state regulations force insurers to provide standard policies that cover all sorts of things you shouldn't have to pay for. If health insurance were deregulated, the companies could provide a wide variety of policies that better fit the needs and wallets of their customers. And the price mechanism, as natural a force as the wind and tide, would provide personalized incentives for the smokers and Supersizers to change their ways. The government takeover of the health-care industry would replace that with some bureaucrat who has the intellect and attitude of a TSA screener, guided by a social-utility calculation created by a compassionate humanitarian like Ezekiel Emmanuel, Cass Sunstein, Peter Singer or John Holdren. Google them if you don't know them already. Then tell us which you prefer - the free market or the bureaucracy.

Posted by: BobN at January 12, 2010 8:35 AM

No Bob, the health insurance industry can't be actually regulated, as all I'm hearing in these debates is how the big evil health insurance companies conspire to hurt the consumer. Clearly if there was government regulation, there wouldn't be a need to change over to a whole national health care system, would there? </sarcasm>

Posted by: Patrick at January 12, 2010 11:11 AM
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