Friday, January 15, 2010

He Started Out Well...

Ezra Klein started out well enough, with this observation:

Obesity rates have held steady for five years among men and a solid 10 years among women, which is good news. So what's the cause here? Better eating habits? Exercise? Or can we just not get any fatter?

Dr. Ludwig said the plateau might just suggest that “we’ve reached a biological limit” to how obese people could get. When people eat more, he said, at first they gain weight; then a growing share of the calories go “into maintaining and moving around that excess tissue,” he continued, so that “a population doesn’t keep getting heavier and heavier indefinitely.”

Americans Not Getting Fatter

Unfortunately, after observing that this was sort of good news in the sense that at least things aren't getting worse, he then had to go and write this:

The easiest way to control costs in the health-care system would be for people to need less health care. And the easiest way for that to happen would be for people to lower their risk of chronic diseases.

Americans Not Getting Fatter

Well, far be it for me to criticize Mr. Health Care, but as I observed several months ago, this isn't true, according to the people who keep statistics of the effects of obesity on health care costs. The cost of private insurance relative to Medicare and Medicaid is bigger, by a lot.

Yes, if we stopped getting so many chronic diseases things might be better, but we already have a similar rate of cigarette smoking to most Western nations, which is the other big source of elective unhealthiness. And while it's nice to eat organic food and lower one's intake of pesticides and herbicides, organic food's expensive, and most Americans are less able to afford it with each passing year. So, as with other pronouncements of his on health care policy, Klein's right if one ignores a few facts, particularly the economic circumstances most Americans find themselves in.

If only there were a pattern...

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