“If we could go back to the obesity rates of 1980 we could save the Medicare system a trillion dollars.”—Barack Obama during Democratic Presidential Debate, 12/13/07
But we have an election coming up next year, and strictly from a fat perspective, I worry about who is going to replace him. When I found out Barack Obama (much like Hillary Clinton, who has made similar remarks in the past) wanted to disappear me solely because of my weight in order to save the government money, I had to ask: Just how far are they willing to go to make that a reality?
No, really, I want to know. I’m willing to sacrifice a lot in order to make life better for poor people, gays, Muslims, waterboarding victims, and a whole lot of other folks who have been personally kicked in the rear a lot more severely than I have by the current administration. I’m willing to sacrifice a lot for a cleaner environment, safer food, no war, no wiretapping or torturing just because you don’t like someone’s mustache, and more affordable housing for all. Which is why I’m a Democrat. They may not be perfect, but at least they make a pass at giving a damn about those issues.
But I still think I have a right to know just how much agency they are willing to remove from people—and especially fatasses like myself—in the name of “health care cost containment.” You’d think the Democrats would be all about personal agency and individual freedom. They damn well ought to be. But I’m afraid that when it comes to nosing around in people’s body autonomy, they’re just as guilty as the people they want to replace; they just want to nose around in a different part of our bodies, that’s all.
Getting the vapors about health care costs and blaming the fatties for driving up the cost of health care seems to be the very latest fashion. And here’s the thing: I haven’t seen one reliable study that shows that fat people, over a lifetime, actually have higher healthcare costs than other people.
Oh, sure, people will always bring up diabetes as an example. But does a fat diabetic actually cost the health care system more than a thin diabetic?
Not to mention, if fatasses are all doomed to drop dead at an early age, then that actually saves money in the long run, doesn’t it? Certainly it would seem to eliminate costly elder care, since all the fatties dropped dead in their 40s and aren’t clogging up nursing homes 50 years on.
Then there’s the issue of fat being blamed as an independent variable for all sorts of things when that’s never been shown to be the case. In addition, as Meowser points out, weight gain is often a symptom of underlying health problems (the kind that might have been detected earlier if we had universal health care and a focus on preventive medicine) or a result of treatments for certain conditions — and many of those treatments have been developed since 1980.
Meowser gives a list of questions about weight and health care policy that she’d like to see the candidates (especially those inclined to put the blame and burden on the shoulders of fat people without actually examining other factors that might be driving up health care costs) answer in the next debate. But I have a few to add:
What do you intend to do about the massive corn subsidies that result in cheap crap and high fructose corn syrup in just about every kind of foodstuff?
What do you intend to do to raise school funding so that schools don’t have to rely on soda and candy sales (or ads for fast food) to make ends meet, to fund athletic teams, to pay for physical activities, to pay for space for physical activities, or to buy healthy food for school lunches?
What do you plan to do to address the fact that we keep telling kids to eat healthy, but federal nutrition and school lunch programs keep feeding them crap because of the influence of the beverage industry and agribusiness, who need a place to dump their surplus?
What do you plan to do about making fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy items available, accessible and affordable to people who receive public assistance in the form of food stamps or other food-assistance programs?
How will you close the grocery gap?
What will you do to make it easier for low-income people to do their own cooking if they don’t have facilities, particularly on a community basis?
What will you do to address suburban sprawl and increase public transportation and affordable housing so people have time to exercise, the roads are a little safer to walk along or bike on, and people maybe aren’t so stressed out because of commuting?
What kind of preventive care are you envisioning as part of your healthcare plan?
Do you have the guts to take on Big Ag, Big Pharma and the insurance industry?
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