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Big Food vs. Big Insurance

 
 
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 09:46 am
Big Food vs. Big Insurance

Quote:
But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.

Why the disconnect? Probably because reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the health care system. At least in the health care battle, the administration can count some powerful corporate interests on its side " like the large segment of the Fortune 500 that has concluded the current system is unsustainable.

That is hardly the case when it comes to challenging agribusiness. Cheap food is going to be popular as long as the social and environmental costs of that food are charged to the future. There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.
 
Bi-Polar Bear
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 10:23 am
well said and agreed with....
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 11:43 am
@Robert Gentel,
I suppose the difference for me is that people have a lot more choice in what they eat than in what medical insurance they can purchase.

I do think the agricultural subsidies need to be revised, mainly because I think their purpose has been subverted.
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 12:09 pm
You have very limited choices in the matter of food. Don't want sugar? Good luck finding edible sugar free. Don't want partially hydrogenated oil in it? Read the label carefully. So on, down the line with objectionable ingredients. I noticed recently that some are promoting Angus beef, because many believe it is healthier. Most of the time, when I check it out, they are indiscrimately offering all the fat most of us want to avoid.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 12:29 pm
This should be an interesting topic. I've got a lot to say but no time to say it.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 12:30 pm
@edgarblythe,
Of course you have choices. It's called "cooking".

Don't want sugar? Make your own.

Don't want partially hydrogenated oil? Make your own.

Don't want corn syrup? Make your own.

Want good meat? Go to a butcher and buy what you want.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 12:47 pm
@DrewDad,
I get where you are coming from, and don't equate the two. What I take away from this article is mainly that comparing our health care costs with other countries often misses that they are healthier than us due to differences in diet.

The diet is going to be a growing health care problem. Sure, people have the freedom to eat right, but the fact that they don't is going to put strain on the health care system that others who do eat right don't have a choice in. Those costs are going to be spread out over everyone.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 01:30 pm
@Robert Gentel,
But then we get into the problem of regulating people's behaviors, which I think is pretty dangerous.

I think a better way to address health-related behavior is to base insurance rates on the behaviors.

People with healthy weights, who don't smoke would pay less insurance than an overweight smoker.

The danger there is that people with medical conditions that affect their weight will get hit unnecessarily.

Nothing is ever simple....
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 01:33 pm
@DrewDad,
I think a better way to address health-related behavior is to base insurance rates on the behaviors.

That could pit the poor against the rich - again.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 01:39 pm
@DrewDad,
It's certainly a tricky issue, I personally favor taxing the problematic substances to cover the societal costs. So similar to how cigarettes are taxed at higher rates, I would consider a soda tax. The revenue could be used to promote healthier lifestyles, things like paying for more parks, little leagues, and more education about diet.

But I'm not even taking it that far just yet. Right now I'm just digesting how much the poor diet factors into the health care costs that we are trying to separately address.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 01:50 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
It's certainly a tricky issue, I personally favor taxing the problematic substances to cover the societal costs.

That would probably work better.

Otherwise, we'd probably have to separate insurance rates by age as well.




That brings up another issue, which is the long-term viability of Social Security....
0 Replies
 
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 01:56 pm
I saw this article in the NYTimes today and also thought it made an important point. I hope the country starts to connect the dots between food subsidies and our declining national health.

Why aren't the tea party people protesting the tax money wasted on the corn and tobacco industries.? Instead they are protesting the security of guaranteed healthcare. I will never understand such people.

0 Replies
 
Reyn
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 02:14 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
[...] Right now I'm just digesting how much the poor diet factors into the health care costs that we are trying to separately address.

This will be a difficult issue to tackle, given the current economic situation and unemployment rates.

Everytime we're back to the grocery store, we notice prices are creaping steadily upwards on even basic staples like rice, pasta, flour, etc. It's getting harder and harder to eat healthy, depending on one's income level.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 03:28 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Interesting stuff from Pollan again. He can be a bit of a dry read, but I think it's worth the effort.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 04:19 pm
What Pollan says is not really new to me. I know I've read about that for a while. Meantime, I liked the article when I read it. To some extent, changing subsidizing is fraught with potential for a lot of clanging discontent, just as much as the healthcare situation is.

A lot of our farmland is given over to big Ag, and I gather from past articles I read that those farmers have a lot of rules about what they can plant.
Much land, again I have no link on this, has been turned from sort of a release valve for the Mississippi or other rivers - that is, wetland - to territory for corn growth. In other words, it's a thicket of problems and I expect any change would be reluctant.

The grocery stores that I've known to have relatively good food, an arguable term that I'll skip over, are usually if not always more expensive here in the United States, and for the economically low rent people like me, relative far away from our homes, in many cases. The thicket is systemic.
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 05:23 pm
I would imagine that every American can eat healthily. But there are other priorities on which to spend their money.

Those priorities are governed by the "hidden persuaders", and they wouldn't be persuaders if they didn't persuade, and it follows, logically, that the advertising industry is also in the frame and, because that funds media, your newspapers and TV are just as much worthy of your attention as any of the other players.

If that makes you nervous it has nothing to do with me.

And, Green Witch, tobacco was being smoked long before Black and Decker Workmates were invented or Paris fashions.
ossobuco
 
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Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 06:11 pm
@spendius,
Every american (u.s.) cannot eat healthily easily, Spendi. There are still inner cities with rather miserable choices in grocery stores last I saw or heard. Suburban america, which is vast, often times offers little choice in the usual suspects' stores (some of which are improving ever so slightly). The general product in these is oversugared (by whatever ingredient) and oversalted, and overfatted. People watching any of those contents have to search fine print and success is problematic. The general product is nearly by definition pretty boring, passed through focus groups and corporate headquarters as it is. Variation is not offered much in most of the 'heartland', and isn't in many areas on the coasts. You get to choose between sugar and sugar, and so on. Salt is the new nicotine...

Much as I might sound rad, I will buy a packaged product if I like the ingredients.

I avoid the entire bakery of my closest store, except maybe for the quite small shelving of Oroweat. Every single other offering is dreck, and I'm not Oroweat's biggest fan - it's just the best that is there. I now make my own bread most of the time, which is a luxury re time and knowledge and access and I consider myself lucky for that. Other stores in my medium city have better bread, but they are miles away.

I read the original Hidden Persuaders book by Vance Packard. My dad was in advertising, started the tv department, if I understand correctly, for Foote Cone & Belding back in the day, and I considered off and on whether to go into that myself. I should have, dammit. I wanted to save the world some other way, especially after that book. I haven't looked at it in decades but I assume it was obnoxiously written and not entirely offbase. (Please don't take that as a review. I might have to look at it from an adult now point of view.)

You, Spendi, have obviously not taken a nice automobile drive across the U.S.
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 06:16 pm
@ossobuco,
You're right osso. And I have no desire to either. I would pay to avoid it.

I still say every American can afford to eat healthily. It's a terrible indictment of your government if that is not true.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 06:26 pm
@spendius,
It is true, therefore..



Not that I want government grocery stores. But subsidies and corporate lobbying and citizen ignorance combine to undermine any local efforts at sane practice. Maybe not forever.
ehBeth
 
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Reply Sat 12 Sep, 2009 06:33 pm
@spendius,
spendius wrote:
I still say every American can afford to eat healthily. It's a terrible indictment of your government if that is not true.


They may have the funds - but they may not have the access. There has been discussion on a number of threads over the years about how unequal access to good quality food is in the U.S.
 

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