This is an interesting convergence of news articles.
President Obama is pushing health care reform, talking about the catastrophic consequences of high-cost medical care. At the same time, a report come out that Americans are fatter than ever.
Here is a recipe for cutting trillions of dollars of health care costs every year.
Eat less, exercise more.
A great many of our health-care costs are due to lifestyle choices. Overeating, smoking, drinking, the use of drugs, and unhealthy sexual activities. If people would reduce their involvement in these activities, he medical community would be able to devote more of its resources to caring for those who really need the help – those whose illnesses and injuries are of a type that afflict people regardless of the choices they make.
This is a medical cost containment program that does not cost a dime in government money. In fact, it would increase government revenue, allowing the government to collect more money that it can then use on other programs that actually have real merit. This is because healthier Americans are more productive. They miss less work due to health-related issues, and they are simply able to do more when they do work.
Furthermore, this program will help to fight the effects of global warming, as people leave their vehicles in the drive way and walk more – whether they walk to the store for groceries, or walk to the bus stop and use public transportation.
Unfotunately, we are heading for a health-care system that is built on the principle of abdicating personal responsibility for one’s choices and forcing other people to pay the bill. The current health care reform proposals are, to a large degree, a license for everybody else in the country to make poor lifestyle choices, and then charge much of the costs of their poor choices on my credit card.
And if I should decide to take greater responsibility for my health – if I should decide to put in an hour of exercise every day, to maintain a healthy diet, to choose not to smoke or drink or engage in unhealthy sexual activities, I get none of the savings. My paycheck still gets drained by the rest of the population that takes less care of itself and then garnishes my paycheck to pay their medical bills.
One thing I expect is that the government is substantially underestimating the cost of this health care bill. To the degree that people can pass on even more of their health care costs to others, to that degree people will make choices that will increase their demand for health-care services.
Whatever the government decides to subsidize, it can expect people to demand more of. If the government were to offer universal free gasoline, SUVs and gas-burning vacations would become the rage while public transportation and evenings at home with the family would take a beating. As the government pays for more health care services, people will discover needs for medical care that they never even imagined before.
So, this health care reform is going to end up being a very useful government program for encouraging more obesity, more smoking, more irresponsible sexual activity, and more of the things that people would have a greater incentive to avoid if they were to suffer the total costs of their own irresponsibility.
By the way, this is not so much an argument against adopting the health-care reform package. It is a warning against some of the costs of that type of legislation. However, against the fact that some people have legitimate healthcare issues, these consequences may well be necessary evils.
However, it does provide an argument for taking those consequences seriously. This means that the choice of whether and how much to drink, smoke, and eat, as well as with whom and how one has sex, are no longer private choices. They are private so long as the individual is willing to pay the costs of his or her mistakes.
However, as soon as he demands the authority to garnish the wages of other people to pay for those effects, those others being forced to pay gain the right to have a say in the activities that a person engages in. These choices gain a moral taint . . . or, more precisely, an immoral taint . . . that they would not otherwise have.
So, do you want to be a better person? Give up smoking. Eat less, get some exercise, keep your car in the garage. Quit sleeping around – find a partner that you can be happy with and declare your fidelity to each other.
Most important, be willing to deal with these as moral issues. This means that the desires behind these behaviors become a legitimate target of praise and condemnation. In a public health care community, people who do not take care of their health are not just harming themselves. They are displaying a selfish willingness to do harm to others who do not deserve to be harmed and without their consent.