Monday, September 14, 2009

Health Care, Not Insurance

This is precisely why we need a national health service, and not the mishmosh of tangled threads of bureaucracies and naysayers that the Republicans and other fascists want to use to keep us down:
No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

[...]According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

In case you were wondering where the cost savings that would pay for this healthcare reform is coming from, those numbers speak loudly. Right there, just in obesity and diabetes, you have a $260 billion a year. A year.

Considering Obama's paltry proposal will only cost $1 trillion this decade, that savings alone, even if only half realized, means American healthcare would show a profit....IF WE ENACT ACTUAL HEALTHCARE!

Now, there are many who would say this is tantamount to dictating what Americans can and cannot eat.

Bullshit. How many Americans really listen to their doctors? Because if Americans were that easily persuaded off their bad habits, we wouldn't need healthcare reform. We wouldn't need to rein in rising healthcare costs.

You'd think the private insurance companies would have glommed onto this fact: if Americans eat healthier, that's more profit in their pockets.

But then you'd have to take into account America's "farm" lobby (really, it's better called "agribusiness" or for a more descriptive face "Big Food"), which is among the biggest contributors to heartland legislators, bigger in many cases than banks or credit card companies.

As an anecdotal example, just try talking to an Iowa caucus about cutting farm subsidies. There's a quick way to lose a primary cycle.

We don't need insurance reform. We need healthCARE reform, a system that encourages Americans, perhaps even thru tax incentives, to eat healthier, to lose weight, to stop smoking.

Indeed, many private insurers do this now, offering cash incentives: $400 per annum to visit a health club, discounts for being a non-smoker, discounts for attending weight-loss classes, and I'm sure there are a few that will actually rebate some of your premiums if in fact you do lose weight.

Imagine on your 1040 being offered the chance to take a few hundred bucks off your bill to the IRS by affirming, honestly, that you've quit smoking? Or can offer evidence that you went dutifully to the gym twice a week? Or you completed a marathon or a hundred mile bike ride?

We already use the tax code to reward good behavior, to construct social good, like the charitable or home mortgage interest deductions. What's wrong with using this device to cut a tax bill that everyone agrees is going to become more bloated as the tax code ratchets up from the ridiculously undertaxed position it has been for the past eight years?