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COLUMNIST: Moving toward 'fit you in' health policy

(This ran a few years ago. In light of new health legislation pending, perhaps this too can add to your upset.)

This one should please those of you who haven't had any reason to be displeased with me lately. However, it should be as plain as the nose on the end of your face that, once you've read this column, you will not be able to criticize the content, but you will criticize the fact that saying "it's always someone else's fault" is now the route I have chosen. Savor it.

America doesn't have a health insurance problem, it has a health problem.

Am I the only one noticing the large number of people in this country not taking care of their body? Since this lack of self care extends from upper income folks to lower, it's plain that there is no connection whatsoever between education, earning power, and good health smarts.

There are a lot of people out there carrying more excess weight around beneath their belt than I can lift. Odds are that these same overweight people probably smoke more cigarettes than average, too.

Even worse, they're raising children in their image, which means any solutions previously thought to be immediate are really one generation delayed, at which point the childrens' upbringing will kick in, and they'll be the same.

Yeah, blah, blah, blah, we should be helping to educate the overweight so that they can eat properly from the basic food groups. Somehow, I think that if you tried to put most people on a fruit, veggie and grain diet, you'd have a fight on your hands. Add in taking away tobacco, and it would be a brawl. Besides, it's evident that education isn't working, now that the kids are getting fat, too.

OK, sure, it's a gland problem. Sorry, it's not. The stomach is not a gland.

So here we are, a country with over forty-seven million people without health insurance, and more than thirty-seven million more of us who can barely hang on to ours. Premiums have become twice what we used to think we could afford for a house payment. It's quite simple: Those premiums are high because those of us who are striving toward good health are paying for those of us who are not.

Part of this is the seeming inability of the medical profession--and they're not normally known to be feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy masters of relationships with patients --to call it the way they see it. For instance:

A 300-pound man walks into a doctor's office. (Or 200, or whatever.)

The doctor asks: "How are you feeling today?"

The man replies: "Not so hot. My feet hurt. My back aches. I'm tired all the time. My..."

The doctor says: "You should be tired. Look at how fat you are. Your body is doing the work of a locomotive on the engine of an economy car. Go home. Lose some of that stuff. You'll feel better."

The man says: "You have to help me. I feel like I'm dying."

The doctor says: "You sure are, heavy as you are, and faster than normal, I might add."

The man pleads: "Please, you have to help me. Aren't there magic drugs? I can't stop eating on my own."

Doctor: "All right, if you insist." He presses his desk intercom and says into it: "Bring'em in, boys." Two husky interns briskly enter the room and quickly lock two metal splint-like things on the guy's elbows. He looks at them, looks up and asks: "What are these things?"

Doctor: "Elbow locks. Eating's a lot harder when you can't bend your arms. They don't work, then we'll wire your jaws shut. Have a nice day."

Like my mother always said, good medicine is hard to take.

Another solution to overweight would be to put narrower doors on doctor's offices. That would give new meaning to the expression: "We'll see if we can fit you in."

Or, how about, if you're 40 pounds overweight, your health insurance costs you $40.00 more a month. You can run, swim, bike a certain distance? Go to a certification testing center, do it, and your health insurance costs forty bucks less. Reward or punishment, you pick.

This is brutal stuff, isn't it?

Brutal is me and millions more like me paying gasp-that's-expensive premiums per month for insurance that doesn't cover the first what-do-you-mean-that's-the-deductible or any of how many other exceptions for miscellaneous medical costs. If that money isn't being spent on me, it must be going to someone else, someone who isn't healthy.

Some of us are tired of eating right and exercising right so we can live longer to pay for more of someone else's bad habits.

And there are a lot of people who feel that way.