I’m going to be honest here, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to touch this posting.
My site producer, Richard, sent me a link to a Time Magazine article outlining Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s recent proposal that obese patients on Medicaid be charged a $50 ‘fat fee’. Apparently a plan for losing weight will be available to the patients, and if they refuse to follow it, or don’t slim down, the fee will kick in. Richard wanted to know how I felt about the issue – so here’s my thoughts…
As it turns out the proposal isn’t just about weight. The article goes on to say that similar charges will apply to smokers, and also to people that have chronic illnesses but fail to manage them accordingly. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s estimated that this “plan” will recoup nearly half of the state’s 1.1 billion budget deficit. Sounds a bit underhanded to me and a lot like Big Brother stepping in to regulate, not just legislate, our lives. And since when has money stopped people from their vices? Cigarettes are nearly $10 per pack, and it hasn’t made a dent in the number of smokers.
Please don’t misunderstand me, or misinterpret my words. I’m not a huge political activist (although I have an opinion), or some far left liberal. And of course no one recognizes the obesity and health epidemic more than myself. But is the government over-stepping its boundaries by making you pay if you eat too much, smoke, or have another addiction issue? I think they might be…
Ultimately, I don’t believe the answer is in monetarily punishing people for their issues. In fact, I’d argue that a financial incentive to get healthier might be the better, and smarter, way to go. I think I have a better chance of getting my kids to make their beds and do chores by offering them an allowance, not by making them pay me if it’s not done. And I bet a few extra dollars up front may spark more people to lose weight and quit smoking.
Yes I now health care costs are through the roof from obesity related issues. I also know that I’ve had three surgeries from abusing my body with exercise. How many athletes visit the ER with broken bones, or suffer similar injuries as I did? Should they pay extra too? I thought the point of health insurance was to cover your health, regardless of how you end up ill. Just like auto insurance, the more you use health insurance and visit the doc, the higher your premium goes. So in a way, overweight people are already paying more money for medical costs. And we all know that in the end, they’ll ultimately pay with their life if they don’t change.
A lot of auto insurance companies also reward their drivers with great driving records with lower rates and better premiums. I wonder if Governor Brewer is planning on giving a tax credit to her most fit Arizona residents? It seems only fair that if you make unhealthy people pay extra under the context of abusing the system, then those that don’t use the system should pay less. Yet I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
I think the biggest issue I have with this plan is that it makes obesity, smoking and other addiction issues seem black or white. And we all know there’s much more to it than that. To simply tell an obese person “follow the plan or pay” is silly. What exactly is the plan anyway? Changing ones lifestyle is not an overnight journey, and in some cases is a lifelong challenge. So I ultimately give this plan a thumbs down.
No, I’m not in favor of smoking, drugs, obesity or anything that anyone does that adversely affects their health. But I’m also not in favor of government attacking our dignity. No way. There has to be a better way to help people.
But what do you think? Should we be requiring obese people to pay extra tax? Do you think it would solve anything? I’d love to heart your thoughts – pro and con…