Healthy Lifestyle Changes – Not Everyone Supports It

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on November 05, 2011 with 1 Comment

By Jill Chapin

November 5, 2011

There probably isn’t another revelation that we could imagine would outrage us anew, so conditioned are we to the deceptive, the surreal, the unbelievable. But I managed to find one and I’m giving everyone fair warning: if you are on blood pressure medication, make sure you are fully medicated before reading further.

Like I’ve said before, we have a much better chance of hearing real news and unpleasant truths from comedians, and this information appeared on a recent taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Stewart’s guest was Representative Kathleen Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania who sponsored a bill, HR 3472 in July of 2009 that would provide for health insurance coverage premium discounts (up to 20%) for healthy behavior and improvements toward healthy behavior.

Now how often have we seen both parties agree on anything? Yet Democrats supported it as preventative care and Republicans liked its low cost. It was killed in committee, however, decimated by three powerful interest groups. Who were these lobbyists who wanted no part of incentives for us to gravitate toward a healthier lifestyle, with all the benefits of lowered medical costs and improved vitality?

They were the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association.

The American Heart Association’s explanation online said that this bill might open the door for discrimination of people with pre-existing conditions, and those who are genetically predisposed to these conditions. But who would begrudge someone who could benefit, even if they couldn’t?

A representative from the American Cancer Society offered a similar explanation of why they didn’t support this bill – because it would have penalized people with pre-existing health conditions and certain health risks who could not meet these targets, by charging them more for their healthcare. Really?

Teenagers get lower premiums for good grades; they aren’t penalized for bad grades, and there has been no accusation of auto insurance premiums rising to counteract the discounts given to good students. So why are we to assume that rates would rise for those with high blood pressure or cholesterol?

Incentives to engage in a healthy lifestyle can be highly successful in reducing insurers’ payouts. That’s why they offer home insurance discounts if you have a fire alarm, an automatic gas shut-off valve or any number of pro-active decisions that lower an insurance company’s risk.

In addition, the AMC said the legislation would have applied to health plans sold in the individual market where people don’t have the support of a formal workplace with a wellness program to help them achieve these goals.

So what? Why does the American Cancer Society believe that we are incapable of making intelligent lifestyle changes on our own? The unemployed and the retired are perfectly capable of taking walks, not smoking and avoiding junk food.

The American Diabetes Association did not have their explanation readily available, but I’m assuming theirs will be similar to the others.

If we are to take their reasoning at face value, then their logic seems to be this: If they can’t improve the health of every single person, they will not support improving the health of those who could benefit from this bill. They don’t want to offer incentives unless 100% can take advantage of them. But this was not the goal of HR 3472; it was designed for those who wanted to take advantage of them, or who were able to take advantage of them. It didn’t punish those who didn’t. No one gets sicker from this bill just because some may get healthier.

Everyone is not equal to everyone else in every category of life. It simply is a fact that seems to have escaped these organizations with whom we have naively placed our trust. They epitomize our country’s race to mediocrity as we indulge our absurd fixation of a one-size-fits-all mentality. Yet reaching down to the lowest common denominator is their benchmark of choice. Consider this as you make future charitable donations.

Nothing quite captures the philosophy of these organizations like the following quote attributed to Michelangelo:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss it, but that we aim too low and reach it.”

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, "If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!" and a children's book entitled, "My Magic Bubble."

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1 Comment

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  1. The heart, cancer, and diabetes associations have a valid point. The principle of insurance is to economically balance out total risk pools. Lowering premiums on one class will raise the premiums on another. In principle, health care should be an equal right for everyone.
    Good personal health maintenance practices are their own reward. A better healthcare solution would be public service media campaigns for exercise and better enforcement and legislation on environmental clean-up and reforming unhealthy factory farming practices.