Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Food Wars (Part I)

To be perfectly honest, the topics of physical fitness and health are subjects I am passionate about. For this reason, I am not against all corporate or government intrusion to make us healthier, but they are going about it all wrong. I believe in personal responsibility and therefore, do not agree with liberal policies to force food manufacturers and restaurants to post nutritional facts about their meals and products. This merely drives up costs and will do nothing to combat unhealthy eating habits. I also believe any lawsuits against food manufacturers and restaurants are frivolous and have no merit. If we have become obese it is our fault, not the fault of McDonalds. But this does not mean I am against all intrusion into our lives. For starters, I am in favor of sin taxes, as long as they are levied equally, on groups of unhealthy foods. Just as high taxes on tobacco has worked to lower cigarette consumption, higher costs for junk food may be incentive to kick the habit (although I would only consider taxing unhealthy products at a very low rate – 1 to 2 percent at most). But the argument to tax food is not as strong as cigarettes after all, second hand food is not unhealthy like second hand smoke. Still, sin taxes are a better way to pay for healthcare reform than taxing healthcare providers and driving up costs. It is a fact that obesity is the leading reason that healthcare costs are going up. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease are all side effects of obesity and it drives up the demand (cost) for healthcare services. I would incentivize health insurance premiums – giving lower premiums to healthier people and provide rebates to people that become healthier. I would charge more for healthcare ailments and conditions that are self-inflicted (I understand this would be hard to define). But the bottom line when it comes to taxes, I prefer fair, flat, and sales taxes over income taxes any day of the week. This provides each American better control over their tax rates. And incentivized healthcare premiums places Americans in charge of their healthcare costs. Safeway CEO, Steve Burd has successfully implemented an incentivized healthcare system that is lowering costs. The only thing the Obama administration has done that makes a minute amount of sense, on healthcare reform, is Michelle’s “Move” program. The government has been way off base with its reforms to tackle obesity. First, it rewards bad behavior by providing tax write offs for weight loss dietary programs. Personally, I do not believe in diets, especially diets that do not include vigorous exercise. Moderation, healthy foods, and exercise are the best ways to combat obesity – diets are not needed. Where is my tax credit for being healthy? Secondly, the government has worked to increase the costs of the healthcare industry by setting ludicrous definitions for obesity. The standard obesity measurement is the Body Mass Index (BMI). Anyone with a BMI above 25 is overweight and above 30 is obese. In the past decade, these standards were lowered from 27 and 32 respectively, which classified millions more as overweight and obese. The government also changed the classification of obesity to be equivalent to a disease or sickness, similar to cancer or the flu. The result is that this has added billions of dollars to healthcare costs because doctors and insurance companies must cover procedures, surgeries, and measures to combat obesity. And what’s worse, BMI is a flawed measurement system. BMI equals a person’s weight (W) divided by a person’s height (H) squared times 703 (BMI = W [lbs.] / H² [in] x 703). Using this standard, healthy people are not only classified as overweight, but obese because muscle weighs more than fat. BMI also does not take into account age, sex, or conditions that may make someone obese, which is just absurd. And what’s even more troubling, BMI does not measure physical fitness! Let’s evaluate a simple example that illustrates some flaws with the BMI standard and how simple changes can improve the metric. For instance, the BMI metric could be enhanced simply by taking into account each person’s midsection measurement. A person that is 6 foot and weighs 185 lbs. has a BMI of 25. Let’s assume this person has a midsection (MS) measurement of 35 inches. I can normalize their BMI to 25 by modifying the BMI formula to: BMI = W / (H - MS)² x 185. Thus, if a 6 foot, 185 pound person had a waist size of 32, their BMI would drop to 21.4! The second person is obviously more fit, but the current BMI metric would classify them both with a BMI of 25. The revised BMI equation, that I proposed, would eliminate millions of fit people from being wrongly categorized as overweight and or obese. Thirdly, Obamacare does nothing to correct obesity or unhealthy eating habits. It does not reward good behavior, nor does it penalize bad behavior. If you are irresponsible and drive up the cost of healthcare – that is okay. There is nothing that holds the American people to be responsible and accountable for the health of their families in ObamaCare. My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

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