Author Michael Pollan’s brilliant analysis in the September 10 New York Times correctly argues that the American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care.
As he writes, “Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Pollan points out that we’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet.
Pollan argues that so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. This means the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilites for covering the medical costs of that diet.
If the President’s insurance reforms become law, so that insurers cannot deny coverage or avoid paying claims, health insurers will discover that they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obseity and chronic diseases linked to diet. As Pollan writes, “Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future (insurance company) profits.”
When insurers can’t avoid treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement ot reform the food system – everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t ever had before.
Pollan concludes that passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. ” To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health – which means going to work on the American way of eating.”
I highly recommend that everyone read this article. My previous posts have discussed my dismay that no one in the debate is talking about personal responsibility for lifestyle choices. Pollan’s article makes a big contribution to the conversation. Taking on agribusiness will be the next big fight, but it’s not a fight that the taxpayers usually win.
Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/lr88da