It is a riff on the old joke about how to lose ten ugly pounds. Except in this case, the punch line — cutting off your head — is no joke. The Associated Press reports:
Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die?
Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese, the government says. These costs accompany sometimes heroic attempts to prolong lives, including surgery, chemotherapy and other measures.
Good thing for fat smokers that Obamacare doesn’t really call for the formation of a “death panel.” Unfortunately, though, “reality” Should obese people and smokers just be allowed to die? is not much kinder. Smokers, researchers estimate, die 10 years earlier on average and fat people five to 12 years earlier.
Plus, these grim statistics take their … er — heaviest toll on the least fortunate among us: the poor. Studies reveal that the downtrodden cling not only to guns and religion but to cigarettes and high-fat foods. A modest proposal might decree that this stratum of society is the most expendable. Its members contribute less to the economic vitality of the nation and, therefore, the general good of its citizenry. What is more is that the economic burden they impose is destined to increase. Another provision of Obamacare that kicks in this year will allow health insurers to charge smokers up to 50 percent more on their premiums. Guess where the money to finance the difference comes from.
What is a nation to do? The author of the AP article, “medical writer” Mike Stobbe, laments the backlash to the government’s efforts to save us from ourselves:
Witness the current legal tussle over New York City’s first-of-its-kind limits on the size of sugary beverages, and the vicious fight last year in California over a ballot proposal to add a $1-per-pack cigarette tax, which was ultimately defeated.
It cannot be denied: Citizens’ cloaking themselves in their constitutionally protected liberties can be a problem for a government that is striving for absolute authority. Maybe the solution, however, is not to attempt to further curtail the exercise of free will but to relax the government’s grip. Maybe it’s Washington that needs to lose those ten ugly pounds.
Following this prescription won’t eliminate the problem. But it won’t exacerbate it either.
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