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Should the Obese Pay?

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 08:09 AM EDT


As Congress barrels toward a complete entanglement of government into the health care system, serious questions come to mind. For example, since we will all be in this system together, don’t citizens have the right to ask the government to punish others for “destructive” behaviors that will put stress on the collective health care system?

I suppose once you name one “harmful lifestyle”, you could fall down the slippery slope, but let’s start with obesity. Elizabeth Colbert has an excellent essay in this week’s edition of The New Yorker, which asks a good question: “Why are we so fat?” Besides the rising amount of books written on the subject and the so called “fat liberation” movement, obesity continues to take a toll on the bodies of Americans and an increasing strain on the health care system.

Obesity has caused airlines to spend more on fuel because of the increase in weight of the population and have had to make formal policies for people who can’t fit into one seat. Nearly “Six in 10 people in the United States are overweight, with a third crossing the boundary into obesity” and direct medical costs because of obesity come in at about $93 billion annually.

While a small portion of the obesity in America might be related to some type of irregularity, when you’re getting to 60 percent of the population being overweight, it ceases to be an enigma for most. It may seem like a heartless way to govern, but if you are causing greater strain on the health care system because of how you are living, why can’t the government implement some type of punitive tax to discourage such behavior?

Is it wrong for citizens who are fit and healthy to ask the burden of cost to be shifted to a population that’s living recklessly? As the government begins a slow takeover of system, our privacy and autonomy in making health care decisions will decrease.

In the end, there’s little doubt the government will try to insert itself into the intricacies of our lives even further as it wades into the health care system. Unfortunately, Americans chose Hope and Change in 2008, and they’re going to get way more than they bargained for. If government intrusion isn’t enough to send conservatives, libertarians, and most Republicans into a frenzy, the Tax Foundation has a great chart on the new tax rates should the Obama/Dem healthcare plan pass.