Sunday, July 18, 2004

Stop the Mac-ness!

This article in the Washington Times on Friday is about a change in the federal government's Medicare program that eliminates the prohibition on covering treatment for obesity.  Medicaid, the federal government's program for low-income families with children, will likely follow suit. 
Much will be written about how this new policy means potential paydays for trial lawyers, or the likelihood that State Attorney Generals,  along the same lines as the tobacco lawsuits late last decade, may seek compensation for treatments rendered to fight the condition from "negligent" food companies, whoever that may turn out to be. 
But at what cost? 
Well, if states add obesity treatments to their list of mandatory coverages, small businesses will take it in the shorts. 
And that could eventually lead to those small businesses dropping health plans altogether, which of course means their employees would be getting the raw deal. 
Individual health plans will likely see an increase in premiums, too.  And heaven forbid if you come from a big-boned family! 
And now for the big one:  since the food industry, especially the fast food industry that is already being attacked for their yet-to-be-legally-determined role in the expanding waistlines of society, will need to buffer against the onslaught of lawsuits that is going to head their way, we ALL can expect prices on their products to increase.  And it will likely not be a trivial increase.  
$6 for a Big Mac?  Maybe that's a little high. . .for now.  But just wait until the first court finds in favor of an individual plaintiff in a suit brought against a fast-food company.  (And that day is around the corner, I assure you.  The waters have been tested, and the result was not as forcefully in-favor of the fast-food industry as you might think)  The class-action suit that would follow would redefine the landscape of that industry forever--think Sahara Desert meets Stonehenge.  And imagine what kind of accompanying increase in prices such a development  would have on all other food goods vis-a-vis the law of supply and demand.  Ouch, my pocketbook is hurting already!
And the saddest irony of this whole thing?  The increasing cost of food will dictate--out of economic necessity for the "average American"--fewer and smaller meals.  Which will likely result in a decrease in caloric intake.  
Which--and correct me if I'm wrong here--was a treatment for obesity that was available BEFORE the government's announcement last week.  And it was a cheap treatment, too. 
Did we really need the government intervention to "force" us to take the steps for a healthier lifestyle?


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