It’s a strange state of affairs when the comedy channels break more important stories than the news shows. Just last week a report by Wyatt Cenac, from the John Stewart show set off a firestorm of discussion on the blogosphere. HR 3472, a bill proposed by former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, would have offered incentives (insurance discounts) for healthy behavior (not smoking, losing weight, controlling cholesterol) was defeated in committee not by partisan politics (both parties were in favor of the bill) but by intense lobbying efforts from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Why would the big three associations, which are supposedly for health and prevention, oppose legislation that rewards improved health? According their perfectly jumbled released statements:
“The impact of these provisions would have been to penalize people with pre-existing health conditions and certain health risks who could not meet these targets by charging them more for their health care. In addition, the legislation would have applied to health plans sold in the individual market, where people do not have the support of a formal workplace wellness program to help them achieve these goals.”
“This bill might open the door for discrimination of people with pre-existing conditions, and also those who are genetically predisposed to these conditions. Most importantly it would restrict access to healthcare to those who need it most and research has shown that this has a negative effect on health.”
“In fact, the bill would have enabled employers to reduce the health care premiums of people who met specific health targets (such as not smoking or maintaining low blood pressure), but also penalize people with pre-existing conditions who could not meet the targets by charging them more for their health coverage. The Society supports comprehensive wellness and health promotion programs that utilize incentives, such as discounted gym memberships, for employees. But we oppose restricting access to health care for those who need it most.”
If their stated opposition is understood correctly, it boils down to, unless everyone benefits from these discounts, no one can benefit. Aside from the absurdity of this argument for the essentially capitalist endeavor that is our insurance industry, in what strange twist of reality did smoking and eating junk food cease to become choices? And how does offering incentives for eliminating said activities, equate with penalizing those who choose not to partake? Even those with genetic predispositions to high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes would benefit from not smoking, from eating healthier and exercising more. What do you think?
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