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Beware the Health Care Cops By: Adam Brodsky
New York Post | Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Eat your vegetables. Avoid sweets and fats. Never smoke. And do your calis thenics.

Or be ready to pay a hefty tax.

Ridiculous? Sure. But under ObamaCare, Americans may well find themselves moving quickly toward a world of just those kind of mandates. Here's why.

As taxpayers start paying an ever-larger share of the nation's health bill (as they clearly will under the Dems' health reforms), pressure will mount for Uncle Sam to see that folks live healthy lives. There'll be two key rationales for broader sin taxes and other ways to control lifestyles:

* They promote "wellness."

* They make those living "unhealthy lives" bear the medical costs of their "reckless" behavior.

Certainly, the nation's "nannies" -- those who seek to run lives -- will push these arguments. And they'll have a point; after all, why should, say, a non-smoker pay for the lung-cancer treatment of someone who insisted on smoking all his life?

Such reasoning is already used to partly justify mind-boggling cigarette taxes in places like New York. Smokers drive up government health-care bills (e.g., higher Medicaid and Medicare costs), so it's only fair that they pay more in taxes.

Lifestyle cops also trot out health-cost arguments to push trans-fats and fast-food bans, zoning changes to promote fruit and vegetable sales and more public recreation space.

In April, then-city health czar Tom Frieden called for steep new taxes on soda -- which he claims would help curb obesity, and so lower costs tied to treating obesity-related diseases.

Last month, an Urban Institute study urged higher levies "on sugar-sweetened beverages, cigarettes and alcohol." It claimed "disease prevention" -- "increased physical activity, improved nutrition and smoking cessation" to "reduce both diabetes and hypertension" -- saves bucks. A second UI study asserted that excess weight causes "over $200 billion in annual health-care spending, half . . . funded by the taxpayers."

President Obama made his views clear in May when he tapped Frieden to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC then put out its own study, pegging the "cost of obesity" at $147 billion. Co-author Eric Finkelstein tied the issue directly to ObamaCare: "Unless you address obesity, you're never going to address rising health-care costs."

But then, who'd care about the taxpayers' health-care tab -- if there were no nationalized health care to begin with? "Preventable" costs are no reason to dictate lives but to avoid socialized medicine, like ObamaCare.

That's not the nannies' goal, of course. The CDC report, notably, cites 24 intrusive "strategies":

* Making kids walk to school.

* Pushing moms to breastfeed.

* Cutting down entrée portions served in public venues.

* Creating more bike lanes and recreational areas.

* Discouraging sales of "unhealthy" foods.

* Offering incentives to stores to push farm produce.

If voters back such steps for their own health, of course, that's one thing. But to claim they're essential to save taxpayers bucks gets the logic backward -- because, again, without nationalized health care, there'd be no nationalized costs. Folks would make their own choices -- and just pay the consequences.

Actually, sin-taxers understand this. By slapping levies on soda and cigs, they're implicitly telling folks: You can consume these products and possibly drive up health-care costs, as long as you're willing to pay the tax.

But why only soda and cigs? What about ice cream, Chinese food, salted pretzels -- laziness? Why not tax TV and Web time? (Not to give anyone ideas.)

Economist Gerald Prante goes further, asking: Rather than taxing fattening foods, why not tax obesity itself? Taxpayers could declare their height and weight on their 1040s, and pay an "obesity tax" based on the resulting Body Mass Index.

And no reason to stop there. If the goal is to make each of us pay the health costs linked to our own indulgences, there's a more efficient way to do it: Simply make everyone pay his own medical bills -- and scrap nationalized health care altogether.

Lifestyle dictators will have none of that, of course. They'd rather end personal financial responsibility for health-care costs and then claim government has a right to mandate how we live -- since it pays the bills.

Which is why a vote for government health care is a vote for government-run life. Let's hope Americans understand that be fore ObamaCare goes to the floor.




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