Tags: Barack Obama | Donald Trump | Health Topics | Healthcare Reform | Obesity | coverage | obamacare

Healthcare Reform's Real Weight Is in Tackling Obesity First

Image: Healthcare Reform's Real Weight Is in Tackling Obesity First
(Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

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Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 01:18 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Three things about healthcare are true:

  • It ranks near the top of important policy issues
  • It’s really expensive
  • Nearly no one understands it 

That combination has resulted in a history of bad policy, where premiums have skyrocketed and coverage has declined. Obamacare was supposed to change everything.

But it didn’t.

In reality, many were unable to retain their physician, experienced unacceptable wait times, and often didn’t receive medical care to which they had been accustomed.

Instead of physicians focusing on patients, too many were forced to deal with mountains of paperwork. Adding salt to these wounds were premiums and deductibles still climbing while healthcare became more labyrinthine.

Donald Trump’s surprise election victory put repealing Obamacare on the table.

But what should replace it?

Instead of technical minutiae, let’s look at the areas of common sense reform.

But first, the white elephant. There is no true solution to making healthcare affordable for all Americans. None. Like our 20 trillion-dollar debt, it is a house of cards that will implode. The best hope is slowing the inevitable and preparing a better system for when the current one collapses.

Tragically, while everyone talks about "protecting future generations," so few do

Preferring to "get theirs," to the detriment of our children and grandchildren.

For the last seven years, Republican leaders had vowed, above all, to "repeal and replace Obamacare." When the opportunity arose, the GOP found itself in disarray with contentiousness in its ranks.

Leaders cobbled together legislation that has unflatteringly been dubbed "Obamacare-lite," and which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost more and leave millions uninsured.

The party’s best and brightest should have had a bill that both GOP caucuses supported.

But they didn’t, and frankly still don’t.

It doesn’t help that President Trump is saddled with a low approval rating of his own making. Squandering so much political capital in the first 60 days is not a recipe for success.

The primary issue that must be addressed is the obesity epidemic, given that 36 percent of Americans are obese, with an additional 34 percent who are overweight.

Its costs are devouring ever-larger slices of the healthcare pie, as more than $200 billion per year (staggeringly, that’s per year) is spent on obesity-related, preventable chronic diseases.

By the time of the next presidential election, we’ll have spent a trillion dollars on obesity alone.

Chew the fat on that, because not even America’s economy can absorb such a monstrosity.

And it will get worse as more baby boomers, the most overweight generation on record, enter the period where health issues are most prevalent.

Obesity has caused a massive upswing in cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and bone issues. Vaccines are not as effective in the obese.

And obesity results in high job absenteeism and "presenteeism" — lower productivity when employees do show up. The cost for this lost productivity is estimated, by 2030, to be upwards of $500 billion annually.

Other effects cost billions more: wider seats in stadiums and public transportation; larger toilets in hospitals and buildings; airline lawsuits (and countersuits) over requiring the obese to purchase two seats.

Startlingly, a study found that one billion gallons of fuel are wasted every year just to haul Americans’ extra pounds (for example, airlines are using 175 million more gallons of jet fuel per year).

The price of obesity is unacceptable.

Taxing foods and soda isn’t the answer, as that hurts manufacturers, businesses, and employees — while penalizing healthy consumers.

So how do we cut outlays? Since the obese incur 42 percent more healthcare costs than healthier people, they should bear the bulk of those costs.

Government mandates often lead to a "government knows best" nanny state, but in this case, requiring that insurers screen individuals every year to gain health assessments and establish baselines, makes sense.

Premiums can be adjusted so that those with self-induced obesity pay more. And that’s fair, since healthier Americans are now mandated to subsidize the unhealthy behavior of the obese.

Some will call this a bigoted "fat tax," and "fat shaming." Wrong.

The obese can have their cake and eat it too, but would pay more.

And it wouldn’t be a tax, but a reduction in their taxpayer subsidy. How is that any different from life insurers making smokers pay more?

Higher risk begets higher premiums.

Those who achieve reasonable benchmarks would earn a premium decrease, while those who continued an obese lifestyle would put more skin in the game.

No one is mandating behavior, but no longer would lifestyle choices (notwithstanding the disingenuous claim of many that it’s a "thyroid problem") be swallowed by taxpayers hungry for relief.

If you take a bite out of the trillion-dollar obesity epidemic — the rest is gravy.

This article is the first in a series.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now

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The primary issue that must be addressed is the obesity epidemic, given that 36 percent of Americans are obese, with an additional 34 percent who are overweight.
coverage, obamacare, premiums
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2017-18-23
Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 01:18 PM
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