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TMFBro (< 20)

Make the Fat, Smoking Drunks Who Are Lousy Drivers Pay!

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June 10, 2009 – Comments (5)

We're hearing a lot about health-care reform these days. Just today, I heard Dr. Governor Howard Dean discuss it on C-SPAN radio; Dr. Senator Tom Coburn is slated to discuss his own plan. (Can I just say that I love C-SPAN?) I read an article about a plan from Sen. Edward "Tedward" Kennedy, in which Americans can buy long-term care insurance from Uncle Sam. And I spoke with a doctor who's spending two weeks at her beach house. (OK, that doesn't have to do directly with reform, though many changes could reduce compensation and beach houses for health-care workers. It also made me temporarily question my decsion to not become a doctor, even though I was pre-med in college.)

Here's the thing that bothers me the most about health care: We all pay for other people's inability to control what goes in their mouths and how much they don't move their legs. I attended a conference in March during which one of the speakers said that 80% of our health-care costs are due to lifestyle choices, and since it was stated by someone on a stage with a microphone, it must be true. 

OK, so I don't know how accurate that percentage is, but the basic point is true. A quick search of the Internets will turn up some articles on the topic, such as this from Colorado state representative Jim Riesberg: "Statistics show that preventable illness and disabling conditions are the root causes of rising costs, namely chronic diseases. Obesity is the primary cost driver and the major cause of many chronic conditions. It is estimated that 65 percent -- 191 million -- of American adults are overweight, and 30 percent -- 60 million -- of American adults over age 20 are obese. In many cases, obesity and chronic conditions are preventable and result from personal lifestyle choices." (And if it's on the Internets, it must be true. Otherwise, why are you reading this?)

Since I didn't go to med school and don't have a beach house, I don't know exactly which behaviors cost us the most money. And some people making bad-smelling decisions, such as smokers, will argue that they arlready pay through cigarette taxes and supporting the tobacco industry, which provides jobs and pays its own taxes. Maybe they're right.

The idea of a "fat tax" was proposed as far back as the 1970s, and it's come up again in the last couple of years. I have to say that I find it kinda funny that a vocal opponent is Rush Limbaugh, who's not known for being fat-free. But like Mr. Limbaugh, I don't think a tax is a good idea, because the revenue would likely be spent on something other than keeping down health-care costs for the people who eat right, exercise, and limit their excesses to weddings, New Year's Eve, and local productions of "A Christmas Carol." 

No, I think a better option would be a basic insurance rate for everyone in the pool (whether we're talking government or private insurance), and then adjustments upward based on factors that are within a person's control. It's all certified by each person's physician during the annual checkup (which is something everyone should do anyhow, and will help doctors pay for their beach houses). Or, conversely, people could get discounts or tax credits for certifiying they are in good shape, drive safely, avoid the malls the day after Thanksgiving. 

Possible? Practical? I'm not sure. But it sure bugs me that, through higher taxes and health insurance premiums, I pay for other people's really bad decisions. 

5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On June 10, 2009 at 11:38 AM, dbjella (< 20) wrote:

My thoughts and I know it will never happen:
1) the gov't should mandate that everyone buys health insurance 2) Anyone that provides or is involved in health care must make their books transparent to everyone.  Even suppliers.  If you are involved in health care we want to see your books.  Salaries must be public also.  This includes medical schools and teachers.
3) The gov't must insure people with pre-existing conditions.
4) Universal cap limits on lawsuits.  someone needs to define a limit for death and disability.
5) If you want welfare and are with children, then the male must submit to being circumsized...yikes
6) If you are unable to pay, then you must perform community service.

 

 

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#2) On June 10, 2009 at 11:42 AM, davejh23 (< 20) wrote:

I agree 100%.  Life insurance companies refuse to provide life insurance to those that smoke or are overweight.  Why can't we refuse healthcare to these people as well?...or charge MUCH higher premiums.  That may sound cruel, but something dramatic needs to happen to get Americans thinking about their health.  Why spend millions of dollars prolonging someone's life when they do nothing to help themselves?

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#3) On June 10, 2009 at 12:04 PM, TMFKris (93.58) wrote:

I think this post got lost, so here goes again. "We all pay for other people's inability to control what goes in their mouths and howw much they don't move their legs"

I don't think we know enough about the health effects of genetics vs. "choices" to selectively charge people more for health care. If you and I both choose to eat Twinkies for a week, I will likely gain more weight just b/c of body type. Will it be enough to affect my health? Who knows? Why do I get punished for making the same decision you did? What about freedom? Talk about a nanny state.

Also, I don't want politicians deciding what's a choice. Is it your choice to eat a lot at McDonald's if that's all that's available in your neighborhood and that's all you can afford. Should you pay more for health insurance if you walk around in super high heels, increasing the risk of twisted ankles?

Also, I don't trust my doctors to certify anything in the 12.5 minutes they see me, dispensing advice available in any women's magazine.

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#4) On June 10, 2009 at 1:52 PM, TMFBro (< 20) wrote:

I'm all for the freedom of other people to make bad decisions, as long as I don't have to pay for the consequences. I'm no doctor, and have never played one on TV (though there was this one time when I was in college...), but I think it's safe to say that certain conditions -- e.g., being a smoker, being overweight, being a heavy drinker -- increase the chances of bad health, and higher health-care costs that are borne by all of us.

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#5) On June 10, 2009 at 2:05 PM, jddubya (< 20) wrote:

djbella -

5) If you want welfare and are with children, then the male must submit to being circumsized...yikes

 I think you mean vasectomized.

...or negatively testicularized.

...or NoGonadisized

: - )

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