The Government Is Tracking Your BMI

Turns out the federal government wasn’t satisfied with merely encouraging us all to become fatter through their dietary advice and grain subsidies. Nope, that wasn’t nearly intrusive enough. Now they want to track our BMIs and tell us how fat we are.

Some states are already getting into the act by sending BMI scores home on kids’ report cards. No, I’m not kidding. I really, really wish I were kidding, but I’m afraid it’s true. Check it out:

Apparently, the state governments believe parents whose kids are overweight are unaware of the fact. So you see, if we can just get the schools to inform the parents, they’ll wise up and put those fat little tykes on a diet.

It’s the same old, tired, failed confrontation theory: first tell people they’re fat, then shove the calorie counts in their faces whenever they go to buy food anywhere, and they’ll stop being such gluttons. It doesn’t work, but governments keep trying. After all, whenever they see a problem, politicians feel an irresistible urge to do something!  Whether or not that something will actually work doesn’t seem to matter.

The BMI report card idea has already been tried, by the way.  Arkansas began mandating BMI scores on report cards back in 2003.  So how much of an effect has the state’s intrusion had on the kids’ weights after seven years? I think you can guess:  none.  The program is failure.

But since we’re talking about government, failure is simply an excuse to do the same thing again, only bigger.  So now the federal government is getting in on the act.  A section of the “stimulus” bill requires doctors and hospitals to track everyone’s BMI electronically and report it to the federal government beginning in 2014.

If you can figure out how forcing hospitals to waste resources tracking my BMI stimulates the economy, please explain it to me.  (And if you thought the monster “stimulus” package and the monster health-care bill were great ideas, just wait … nobody in Congress read those beasts before voting on them, and we’re going to eventually find out all kinds of new government intrusions were included in them.)

Given the failure of mandatory BMI scores to inspire weight loss, you might wonder what kind of idiot — aside from the elected variety — could actually think this is a good idea.  Here’s what kind of idiot:

As you can see, Meme Roth is still disguising her disdain for fat people as a financial issue. If you’re fat, it costs her money, doncha know, so now it’s her business.  That’s a load of bologna.  Our neighbors just had their fourth child.  We have two.  I did the math, and they’re going to cost the public school system roughly $200,000 more than we will, while receiving two extra tax deductions. That doesn’t make the size of their family any of my business.  And as I explained in detail in a previous post, the idea that fat people cost “society” more than healthy people is a myth anyway.

It’s also a myth than everyone with a BMI of over 25 is unhealthy, or even overweight. Meme says BMI is only inaccurate for professional athletes and body-builders.  Oh, really?  If you’ve seen Fat Head, you’ll recall the scene where Dr. Eric Oliver informed that according to the BMI standard, he’s overweight. I had the guy stand up, and he’s about as lean as you can get.

My current BMI is 28, but there’s nothing wrong with my health.  And as far as I know, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt and George Clooney aren’t professional athletes … but they’re all overweight according to the BMI standard. (Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson are actually “obese.”)

When Meme pulled out a copy of the Constitution to justify further government intrusion, I was inspired to song.  The lyrics went something like this:  Meme, you incredible @#$%ing idiot!  Try actually reading the Constitution sometime!

Yes, of course the Constitution doesn’t require anyone to pay the cost of someone else’s decisions.  Nor would it allow the government to force hospitals to assist them in tracking everyone’s BMI.  The only reason we’re “all paying” for everyone else’s bad health habits in the first place is that Congress violated the Constitution when it forced taxpayers to support socialized medicine.

If we want to lower the financial burden that “everyone pays” for obesity, let’s get the government out of the health and nutrition business.  Allowing them to insert themselves ever more deeply into our lives isn’t the cure.  It’s the problem.


48 thoughts on “The Government Is Tracking Your BMI

  1. Howard

    Listening to Meme Roth and reading about more government intrusion makes me want to puke, which ironically will make me lose weight.

    Hey, don’t feel bad. If Meme achieves her dream of making everyone with a BMI over 25 feel ashamed, there will be plenty of bulimics in the country.

  2. Carol Bardelli

    Mel Gibson’s “obesity” or amplitude is of the mouth vulgarity variety.

    Tracking everyone’s BMI is just like tracking cholesterol, then telling us a normal number is too high and we need drugs to lower it. Tracking BMI will allow them to push weight loss drugs. They thankfully failed to pass one of the new dangerous weight loss drugs. But I bet there are new money making drugs in the wings.

    Never mind the huge stimulus to the private weight loss industry. Telling us we’re fat, even when we’re obviously not, makes many willing consumers of expensive drugs and other products.

    MeMe, on the other hand, is just an attention seeking “skinny white lady” on a witch hunt. (Fatty hunt?) She’s just darkening the already confusing waters regarding body weight and health. Too bad she gets so much media attention.

    I think she gets so much media attention because she’s so annoying. It makes for dramatic TV.

  3. bubba29

    here is a novel idea, people who are on the free (to them at least) healthcare should have to provide detailed reports of what they eat in order to qualify for that healthcare. maybe that would open some eyes. excess carbs=obesity and chronic diseases is what they would find. then maybe there could be a national move toward meaningful change.

    Unfortunately, we may all end up there. I’m very suspicious that the federal government wants to know everyone’s BMI and have access to everyone’s medical records.

  4. Ramona Denton

    This type of information infuriates me and scares me. My low-carb diet has improved my health a lot, but my labs are still not what they are looking for…

    They want everyone’s medical records to be electronic by 2014. Lord only knows what they’ll do with those records.

  5. Mary

    My kids entered public school for the first time this year, so I was unaware of the whole BMI issues. So, I was shocked when I got a note from the nurse that stated that my 12 year old daughter was “severely underweight” and my 10 year old son was “obese” and I should consult their doctor.

    You can see them here, my daughter on the far left and my son on the far right, and as you can see…. both are a healthy size.

    Farther down on the note it explained that this was based on BMI…. so of course I threw the note out. 🙂

    Good lord, that’s just nuts. Those look like perfectly healthy kids to me.

  6. Tracey

    On the subject of engineered drama on TV – saw this at school on Tuesday:
    Hopefully you non-kiwis will still be able to watch the video.

    Oh, and this might appeal too –

    Happy Friday 🙂

    The Professor is Meme Roth with a more pleasant demeanor. His line about how no fat people ever walked out of a concentration camp is stupid. No healthy people ever walked out of a concentration camp either.

  7. Tom

    One more thing to argue with the doctor about when I refuse to be weighed.

    If my doctor wants to weigh me for the purposes of telling me my BMI is too high, I’ll agree … but only if he can beat me in arm-wrestling.

  8. Andrew

    The kid in the first video is not overweight, she’s cute. Maybe it’s jealousy…

    That was my thought. If you saw her in person, “almost overweight” would not come to mind.

  9. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    A bodybuilder or a weight lifter with big muscles will actually be considered obese by BMI even if they have a body fat that is less than 10% since the BMI is primarily calculated simply from weight and height without taking to account the amount of body fat. I am convinced that the government is run by dolts who barely passed grade school math and want to peg people based on simple arithmetic.

    Well, I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush here, but now that you mention it, when I went to my high-school reunions (in a state-government town), it was mostly the dolts who had become state employees.

  10. Todd S.

    The sad truth is that obese people are indeed costing me more. But government is the reason, not the solution. If we weren’t forced into collectivized medical subscription plans (which are inaccurately termed “health insurance”) we wouldn’t have this issue. Even before the “Obamacare” bill, government regulations made pay-as-you-go medical care a near impossibility.

  11. darMA

    “we’re going to eventually find out all kinds of new government intrusions were included in them.”

    This is the thing that concerns me. Who knows what else is in there or will be added as they go along “perfecting it”. Supposedly you have to pay a fine if you have no health insurance. If, as it certainly appears, they want everybody on statins whether they need them or not, what if they up the ante to demanding everyone be on statins or lose their insurance?? Or lower their BMI and lose their insurance? On numerous forums I’ve seen reports already of people being denied insurance because of higher than recommended cholesterol. Between fining those uninsured because they’re not following the “rules” of their new insurance and taxing the hell out of all the healthy whole foods because they contain the “artery clogging” fats, the government is going to have a whole lot more of our money. Therefore people will have to eat the GMO grains & soy because that’s all that will eventually be affordable and “approved”. Lordy, this stuff gets me all riled up very easily.

    It should rile you up. We’re on a way to a system where 1) they confiscate a huge chunk of your money, 2) make private insurance impossible to afford, 3) offer you “free” government insurance (paid for with the money they confiscated from you), but only if you follow their guidelines for healthy living.

  12. Janet

    With the recent BMI flap, I pulled my medical records to take a look at the BMI’s recorded there. Apparently the staff in my doctor’s office calculate the number only once. My documented BMI has not changed from the original calculation although my weight has decreased by 25 lb over the course of those records. The boilerplate physician notes continue to read “denies weight loss”. If they bothered to recalculate, the BMI would be in the underweight range. There are other blatant errors (lies) in the record. accounting for “defensive documentation” by the doc, but that is an issue for a different soap box with me.

    I doubt that our government will ever realize that records (especially medical records) are only as reliable as those who keep them and their motivations. We don’t know what the payoff will be for collecting BMI info will be, but we can look to the e-prescribe program for some clues. Docs who e-prescribe are compensated a percentage of their billing at the end of the year for feeding your prescription medication records into the system where they are accessed by government agencies, pharmas, statisticians of all kinds, and possibly the UN. Facilities earn “Gold Star Awards” for following certain protocols in prescribing and management of specific groups of patients (no matter what those patients really need). This is all backed up by an industry that dedicated to “compliance packaging” and is lobbying for all medications to be dispensed in this way. “We are just trying to help you with compliance” is their mantra. They are starting with diabetic meds and psychiatric meds (that is scary!!). I feel sure that lipid numbers and statin prescriptions will be next. This packaging starts with dated bubble pack cards of meds, progresses to incorporating electronic strips on the bubbles to track compliance of the user, recording date and time each dose is taken, and finally to sensor packs with bluetooth connections so the user is called or paged to find out why they didn’t take the dose, if one is missed. (I assume they will call 911 to respond to and overdose, if you punch all the bubbles at the same time.)

    Don’t you feel like an unwelcome family member (big brother) is unpacking his stuff on your driveway right now? Maybe this is part of the stimulus plan to create thousands of jobs calculating and recording BMIs and manning phone banks to monitor pill packs!

    And for anyone reading who thinks we sound like a bunch of paranoid nuts when we say the government wants to dictate medical treatments instead of leaving it up to the doctors, here are a few choice quotes from Obama’s new head of Medicare/Medicaid:

    “Young doctors and nurses should emerge from training understanding the values of standardization and the risks of too great an emphasis on individual autonomy.”

    “I would place a commitment to excellence—standardization to the best-known method—above clinician autonomy as a rule for care.”

    These are people with a dictate-from-the-top mentality.

  13. Dan

    I almost puked when I saw Meme’s picture on the blog. 🙂 Good to see they had a sensible opposing viewpoint. Insanity is doing the same thing over & over again and expecting different results. The government has been insane for some time now.

    Big brother is at it again. I’ll admit to being a little overweight, but NOT obese as my BMI implies. If I got down to a “normal BMI,” I’d be nothing but skin and bones. It’s just more technobabble.

    To get my BMI to a level that would make Meme and the government happy, I’d have to lose another 25 pounds. Not likely.

  14. Tim

    If I never visit a doctor again, they can’t get my BMI and other info in the system……hmmm can this whole foods-Paleo living do the trick? I need to watch for buses so I don’t get smacked.

    This certainly makes me want to avoid doctors.

  15. Dan

    I think BMI is a croc and that requiring you to give medical information to the feds is intrusive but I would definitely recommend public health care. The health care in Canada is far from perfect but it’s nice to know you don’t have to worry about losing your home or having to take out a loan whenever you get sick or have an accident. Of course maybe I only hear about the horror stories coming from the US and that health care is affordable as is and people rarely get dropped from their insurance company.

    You hear horror stories about people losing their homes, we hear horror stories about Canadians dying while waiting for treatment. Sad fact is, there’s no good way to pay for health care when such a high proportion of the population is becoming diabetic and sick.

    Given the fact that our government helped spark the obesity and diabetes problems, continues to recommend exactly the wrong diet, is clearly corrupt when it comes to food sudsidies, pharmaceutical issues, etc., the last thing I want is for them to run the whole system. Treatment will be designed around which big pharma company did the best bribing/loggying job, and the cost will go way up, not down. Governments can cap prices, but not costs … those are two different things.

  16. Dave

    According to the CDC BMI calculator, my son is “obese” and my daughter “extremely obese”. I have a suspicion that at our her school-mandated checkup last year, the doctor took a look at the BMI for my daughter and had his whole childhood obesity speech worked up. I say this because after walking in the room, he seemed flustered, and kept repeating “I’m not worried about her weight, she’s obviously very healthy”.

    Are we talking about the son I met last year when you were in Burbank?! If that kid is obese, then so is my wife.

  17. Amy Dungan

    Meme Roth has the most annoying voice… I play her video clips and my dogs howl.

    She can’t seriously believe that overweight people don’t know they are overweight. We have people in this country who are not overweight that think they are overweight, but the opposite? I highly doubt it. What few there may be aren’t dangerously overweight. It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror or get on the scale and not notice several extra pounds. Most of us don’t wear the “reality blinders” that Meme seems to favor.

    Meme thinks most people are stupid. She’s pretty much come out and said as much.

  18. Fred Tully

    So the BMI is only correct for 59% of the people, the majority. One more example of group think, mob rule, or new, simpler, and less correct way than the old life insurance tables

    Anyone with decent muscle development who doesn’t happen to have very low bodyfat is going to be classified as overweight by BMI. Glad to see some doctors are figuring that out.

  19. Katy

    I had a friend who was morbidly obese, and there were occasions where people would walk right up to him and tell him so. He’d look down at himself in mock shock and holler, “OH MY GOD, WHERE DID ALL OF THAT COME FROM?? HELP!! HELP!! I’VE BEEN INVADED BY THE FAT MONSTER!!!”

    I feel truly sorry for the babies and little children who are chubby, because the idiot adults around them more than likely have succumbed to the idiot notion that baby fat will transform into adult fat. And the idea that thin children will be thin adults is nonsense as well. I knew a fat-phobic kook who literally starved her children as they were growing up, giving them one pancake for breakfast, skim milk when they were infants, etc. They were less-than-stick thin. 30+ years later: I just saw them all a couple of months ago–and they’re just as fat as the rest of the U.S.; even Mom was obese!

    Unfortunately, the Mom probably just ended up giving them depressed metabolisms.

  20. Kelly

    I found out about the Massachusetts initiative a little more than a year ago because we work with an organization that is involved through a government contract. Even though it was confidential, I did discuss it quietly with a friend of mine who is educated in nutrition and health and detests the BMI. She was as mad as I was.

    (As a side note, she is very much about conventional wisdom and I recently loaned her my copy of Fat Head. So interested to see if it changes her viewpoint at all!)

    I actually edited some materials the organization distributed to physicians informing them about the initiative and I just wanted to write back and say, Stop! Don’t do it!

    Well, now the program is out there and I’m so appalled that it’s being carried out. Since kids (esp, I think, girls) don’t have enough negative media telling them they’re not good enough. Now a state-sponsored program is calling them fat. Grrr!

    BMI is such a farce. And it’s even more of a farce when applied to kids.

    Let’s give this program a few years, then we can watch the media stories about the epidemics of anorexia and bulimia.

  21. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

    I could care less about my doctor reporting my BMI, I know he has been calculating it and showing me my location on the chart at each of my physicals. Given I am naturally muscular and have a large frame (actually measured not just saying “I am big boned” to make myself feel better) Staying somewhere in the middle of the overweight range is a good place for me.

    The obvious problem is BMI does not take these factors into account (well mentioned in Fat Head) and smart parents should know this and ignore the info and continue on. I feel sorry for the not as smart parents that put their kids on a diet so they lose that pesky lean muscle and develop some unforeseen behavior issues from malnutrition. Next report card, “Good news your kid is no longer obese, but now has attention problems and is complaining about being hungry all day…”

    I do recall in high school getting my body fat calculated with calipers, though I knew I was fat and didn’t really need a number to rank it. I am sure the hamburgers for lunch with 3 times the bread than meat and my side choice of fries or fries in the cafeteria probably was not helping…

    The Law of Unintended Consequences will kick in. Parents will panic, put kids on semi-starvation diets, and screw up their metabolisms for good.

  22. Katy

    Also, why is that parents have to “opt out” of the BMI reporting? And again, the issue of overweight in children is not black and white. Depending on the rate of growth, a child could be overweight for a few months and then grow a few inches. Labeling children like this is harmful. If a child truly has a chronic problem, then the school could possibly recommend to the parents that the child see a doctor.

    I think if the child is chronically overweight, the parents have already noticed and it’s none of the school’s business. Their job is teach my kid reading, writing, math, history and science, not track her BMI for me.

  23. monasmee

    “A meme is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” “Memes spread through the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Theorists point out that memes which replicate the most effectively spread best, and some memes may replicate effectively even when they prove detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.” Wikipedia

    Guess the name fits.

  24. Jesrad

    “As you can see, Meme Roth is still disguising her disdain for fat people as a financial issue. If you’re fat, it costs her money, doncha know, so now it’s her business.”

    Aaaah, but I thought the WHOLE POINT of socializing healthcare was that actually passing the costs of some onto the others was a GOOD thing ?! Now I’m confused.

    Sure, Meme’s happy to support socialized medicine, but only if everyone is as skinny and healthy as she is.

  25. Andrew

    Has it occurred to anyone else that pretty much the entirety of our Armed Forces are now fat according to these guidelines? I think you can and should make the argument that the new Dietary Guidelines are a danger to national security since they mandate that we turn our military into a bunch of sick weaklings…

    Good point. My nephew is in the Army (soon to report for Ranger tryouts), and he’s a strong, muscular kid, almost certainly overweight according to the BMI scale.

  26. Shelley

    I can’t tell you how upset this makes me. You point out that parents of overweight kids know their kids are overweight. Well, the same is true of the kids themselves – they know it! What is this? Some kind of scheme to shame kids into losing weight?! Trust me, due to teasing on the playground, a lot of these kids already feel bad about themselves. I was overweight as a kid and had an awful, awful time. Feeling shamed didn’t help me one little bit. This is wrong on so many levels. And when kids grow, they do it in spurts. First out (storing energy I guess) and then up (seemingly cm’s overnight). I don’t even live in the US and this makes me furious!

    It should make you furious. I was deeply ashamed of my belly and (especially) boy-boobs as an adolescent, and more shaming wouldn’t have done anything, except perhaps make feel suicidal.

  27. The Dude

    Not that I agree with this at all, but wouldn’t recording a person’s body fat percentage be a better indicator of their “overweight-ness?” You would think our government has someone in power who knows that BMI is completely bogus.
    Sure, BFP still doesn’t imply any overall health, but its a much better measurement of a person’s body fat.

    Or you’d think the powers that be would at least have some “experts” in power who can use Google to find that out.

    If of course don’t want them doing either, but yes, body fat would be a more useful measure. However, it won’t happen for two reasons:

    1. Hospitals and doctors’ offices routinely record your height and weight, but not your body fat, which is more complicated.

    2. As I learned while researching Fat Head, several big shots in government have consulting contracts with weight-loss companies and pharmaceutical companies. If having a BMI of over 30 is declared a life-threatening medical condition, the drugs and procedures those companies sell will probably end up being covered by insurance and Medicare. So it’s in their interest to have as many people declared obese as possible … just like it was in the interest of the NCEP to have cholesterol over 200 categorized as too high.

  28. TWV

    Meme needs to just a new hobby, whining about how fat people cost her money is annoying, every time she opens her mouth I just hear the sounds that Beaker from the Muppet show makes. Shaming people in hopes that it will cause them to lose weight doesn’t work. Let’s take a look at the scoreboard:
    Shaming, abuse, insults, and whining talking heads – 0 pounds
    Fat Head the movie, the science explained in it, and me putting it in to action – 72 pounds and counting.

    Congratulations on the 72 pounds, and if Fat Head had anything to do with that, I’m delighted.

  29. Ellen

    The level of arrogance and idiocy in our governmental agencies continues to rise.. We need a media campaign, and ridiculous new ideas to try and stem the stupidity epidemic in the US.

    We could create and peddle the AIS Index: Arrogant Idiot Scale and then send the State of Massachusetts and Meme Roth a card that tells them they are in the Total Moron danger zone..

    I love it! BMI .. the brain moron index.

  30. Amy

    The government has to track BMI in order to keep us occupied. We’ll be too busy trying to keep our weight down to notice that the government’s food pyramids and subsidies are what gave us poor health in the first place. Although it angers me to have government intrude into my private life in this way, I also find it troubling that tracking BMI sends a message to Americans that weight is more important than overall health. People are likely to think that a “good” BMI means their health is fine. Thin people get sick after following conventional nutrition advice too. I know, because I was one of them.

    I don’t want them intruding in our lives, but if they’re going to measure something, it should be blood sugar. Lots of big people are healthy and have normal blood sugar, and lots of thin people are on their way to becoming diabetics. But the federal government would never do that, because it would reveal that their dietary recommendations are helping to cause chronically high blood sugar.

  31. Lori

    “…it would reveal that their dietary recommendations are helping to cause chronically high blood sugar.”

    Why Tom, don’t you know that high blood sugar is caused by obesity, which is caused by eating too much fat and protein? 😉 (I wish I were making this up, but an M.D. with a subspecialty in diabetes actually told me this.)

    Yup, that’s how they explain it to themselves. Amazing.

  32. Dana

    I agree that government intrusion into personal information is bad. However, government paying for health care doesn’t necessitate the government intrusion into personal information, at least not to the degree we are seeing now.

    Medicare is socialized medicine, yet somehow the elderly and disabled (certain disabilities qualify for the program) have managed to live their lives without being rounded up and forcibly put on diet pills for the last 50 years. And there are a lot of fat old people.

    The military health care system is socialized medicine, yet somehow the only beneficiaries of it who are picked on about their weight are the ones serving as active-duty military–which, you may be surprised to learn, are only a fraction of MHCS beneficiaries. The rest are family members of active duty, military retirees, and family members of military retirees, none of which are required to maintain any specific BMI. And the active-duty folks are only picked on about their BMI because military readiness is at issue.

    By the way, the military health care system costs about one-fifth of the DOD budget as of 2007, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation. (I looked. Google is amazing, innit?) That’s kind of a high number, but considering who all it covers and the range of medical problems they have, and how much DOD likes to spend on seemingly inexpensive items like hammers and toilet seats, it’s still pretty amazing. I wasn’t clear on whether the number included CHAMPUS/TriCare, but I would guess it does.

    There is a lot that’s wrong with the health care reform bill (I almost spelled that “bull”) recently signed into law. But making everyone pay into health insurance isn’t part of what’s wrong. I used to think it was. Then I had it pointed out to me that the health insurance system is not viable if only sick people are paying for it. It’s something to do with an imbalance between seller advantage and buyer advantage, the same issue that makes the used-car industry such a tough moneymaker for car sellers. Only in the case of used cars, the seller is the one with the advantage, while with health insurance the buyer has the advantage. Used-car prices are stagnant because there’s only so much a buyer will pay while knowing less than the seller about the product. Health insurance companies stand to go out of business with only the buyer knowing about his or her health status. It’s amazing it hasn’t happened already.

    Basically the bill’s there to keep health insurance companies viable. That’s pretty bad too, but nobody wanted actual socialized medicine, so this was the compromise they came up with. If people would stop knee-jerking about Communism every time the subject of single-payer medicine comes up, we wouldn’t have been saddled with this huge boondoggle. Going single-payer would have slashed administrative costs like you wouldn’t believe, and we’d be looking at that one-fifth number rather than the monstrosity this will someday become since the health insurance companies never saw a profit they didn’t like.

    By the way there’s nothing in the Constitution that says we have to have a standing army either. It only says, paraphrased, that the federal government’s in charge of national defense. If we’re going to be precious about Constitutional details then let’s dismantle every base we have on foreign soil and bring all the troops home unless this nation is actually under attack from another distinct nation’s official military, which was the purpose of the United States military to begin with.

    Of course, I view health care as national defense, since sickness kills more of us than war does. And at least half the time, this nation asks for it when we wind up at war anyway. So if it’s OK to go bomb someone when we provoked them to begin with, it has to be OK for everybody to foot the bill when someone gets fat on purpose. Assuming, um, that people do get fat on purpose. Bet you know the answer to that one.

    None of this, of course, has anything to do with the government sticking its nose into our business. I still object to that. But I don’t think it’s a necessary aspect of paying for a service. I, a taxpayer, pay for rangers to oversee my national parks, but that doesn’t mean I pay attention to how much my local rangers fudge their time sheets. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

    Wow, that was a long one. I’ll try not to write a novel in reply.

    Constitution, Section 2: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States …”

    Constitution, Section 8: “Congress shall have the power to … raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years [which is why defense budgets have to be constantly renewed] … To provide and maintain a Navy…”

    But as for closing foreign bases, you’ll get no argument from me. I don’t want my nephew to die because two Middle Eastern countries go to war.

    I agree socialized medicine doesn’t make intrusions like this strictly necessary. But it will almost certainly lead to them. Once the government confiscates your money and then generously offers to “give” it back to you in the form of government services, there are always conditions applied. Want that free health care? Then we want to know your BMI. That is how it will work, whether or not it’s what we’d prefer in our utopian vision of “free” health care.

    I also agree that insurance doesn’t work if only the sick are paying into the system. I pay for insurance, and I’m not sick. But “insurance” against routine medical costs isn’t insurance; it’s just a transfer payment. It’s silly to insure against checkups, immunizations, etc. Imagine what would happen to auto insurance rates if your policy paid for gas, tuneups and tires. My health insurance does pretty much what my car insurance does: it protects me against a financial disaster. If I get cancer or compound fracture, my loss is limited to $10,000 in a calendar year.

    If we’re going to socialize medicine, that’s how it should work. Fans of socialized medicine repeat the stories of people losing their homes to pay for unexpected medical disasters, then use that as an excuse to demand a system that provides “free” everything, including routine care. As any economist will tell you, “free” removes all sense of rationality from consumers. It’s a prescription for massive overuse. “Free” Medicare is what caused my grandmother to run to the doctor every time she had a sniffle. She’d literally go from doctor to doctor until one would put her in the hospital for tests. Toss a nice, hefty co-pay in there, and she might’ve come to her senses. The yearly double-digit rise in health care costs didn’t begin until Congress made health care “free” to millions.

    The health-care “reform” bill gives Congress the power to decide my current inexpensive policy isn’t “comprehensive” enough and cancel it. So in their effort to tackle the high cost of health care, they’ll make me buy much more insurance than I want or need. A suck-up to the insurance companies? Of course. And we already know how big agriculture and big pharma have corrupted the health and nutrition advice. So you want to tell me why you believe if we go single-payer, Congress will suddenly become all altruistic and work for the good of the people, as opposed to working for the good of their campaign chests? All we’ll end up with is a system that transfers even more taxpayer dollars to health-industry companies that know who to bribe.

    Comparing the costs of medical care delivered by the military to a population that’s overwhelmingly young tells us nothing.

    Do you really believe if we went single-payer, our health care costs would drop dramatically? What are you basing that on? In which single-payer country are costs far less than here, while providing the same level of service? Even the U.N. ranked the U.S. number #1 in “responsiveness,” defined as “delivering care in a timely manner.” Governments can dictate prices, but they can’t dictate costs. There’s a huge difference. They often control prices by simply refusing to actually pay the costs. That’s why so many doctors no longer take Medicare patients. You want to create a shortage of a product or service in one easy step? Put a government-imposed price cap on it. Economic history provides more examples of that than you can count.

    What evidence do you have that governments are fabulous at cutting administrative costs? If you compared the administrative costs of public schools vs. private schools in New York, would you want to bet me that the public schools spend less per student on administration?

    I’m sure the administrative costs in private insurance companies are very high indeed. And I’m also sure a lot of that is because of government-mandated paperwork. Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies all complain about the number of government forms they’re required to complete, especially for Medicare patients. So the argument about more efficient administration seems to be based on the idea that the government won’t impose its own paperwork on itself. Yeah, they’ll reduce it to nice, simple, easy-to-understand forms … just like the IRS.

    People always seem to assume that profit somehow raises prices dramatically. But the drive for profit is also what motivates companies to become efficient. There’s no such motivation in government. Government officials are, if anything, motivated to increase their budgets as much as possible. Budgets = power. They’re also motivated to making spending decisions based on which lobbyist is offering the best bribe.

    The profit margin in the health insurance industry, by the way, is about 2%. I looked up some figures on Aetna (billions in profits!) and found that their profit per month per subscriber is a whopping $11 and change.

    Very true about the buyer-seller relationship, but that’s another area where government screwed up the balance. States require insurance companies to cover all sorts of procedures (as a favor to lobbyists), then forbid citizens to shop outside the state. If I want to buy a basic policy from a firm in Nebraska, a policy that doesn’t cover psychiatric visits, infertility treatments, or hair transplants (yes, that’s required in at least one state), I should be free to do so. By not allowing me that option, government drives up my health-care costs. Same thing would happen if they only allowed me to buy car insurance from firms located in Tennessee. The few that are headquartered here would suddenly have the scales tipped in their favor.

    The monster health care bill includes language about “harmonizing” treatment. (Read: dictated by government.) Obama’s new head of Medicare/Medicaid has stated several times that standardizing treatment is more important than clinician autonomy. (Read: if Dr. Mary Vernon thinks you need a low-carb diet but the federal government says you need a statin or metformin, the feds win.) Take everything you don’t like about the standard nutrition advice or the standard medical treatments, and make them a requirement for doctors working in the government system. That’s where a national health-care system would take you.

    And here’s one more objection with has nothing to do with the standard of care: I hear people pushing single-payer plans talking about how much they look forward to outlawing or killing private insurance. This is supposed to be a free country. If I want to buy insurance from Aetna and they want to sell it to me, how does your hostility towards them entitle you to prevent us from making a voluntary exchange?

    And by the way, I’d be happy to pay for my own interstate. Put a bar-code sticker on my car and send me a bill, like with the toll roads near Chicago. By making the highways “free,” the government made auto travel cheaper than it should’ve been, which helped to destroy the passenger train business … so now we subsidize trains. Brilliant.

    Okay, it was sort of a novel, but you asked for reply on your site …

  33. Scot

    In response to the comment about the Armed Forces, I think you’d be surprised at how body mass is treated in the military. As a 6 foot tall, 220 pound Marine, I’m 12 pounds over my max weight. I can get a waiver if my body fat is less than 18% (based on a measure of waist and neck circumference). My minimum weight is 144. I cannot even imagine being that small. Even when I was a skinny as a twig high school cross country runner I was 160 pounds. But 144 puts me right in the “normal” BMI weight class. When I was skinny, I was weak, now I can run as fast as I used to and all my lifts are hundreds of pounds higher. There are a lot of skinny guys in the military, and they never get in trouble, because the mentality is all about running and endurance. In full combat load I’d be close to 300 pounds. Being 5% bf and being able to run 3 miles in 15 minutes won’t help you carry me off the field if I get hit, and it won’t help you carry a 100 pound pack for 20 miles.

    I don’t think we need 6′ marines who weigh 144 pounds.

  34. Kate

    Well, thank goodness the government is looking out for all of us! When I hear about things like this, I wonder if my paranoid ponderings of future health care aren’t that far from the truth.

    1. All citizens will be required to carry proof of citizenship, proof of insurance, this other random piece of information that makes a bureaucrat happy but adds nothing to delivering quick, quality health care.

    2. If you need medical attention and do not have ALL of the required information, tough. You don’t get medical attention. A drone will be available to hear your case if you’d like to appeal, but that’s an 8-4 M-F job only, and there are a lot of cases ahead of yours.

    3. If you do not have all of your information and end up in the emergency room, tough. Another drone will inform you in a bored manner that you can wait to appeal your case. It’s Saturday night and you were mugged and stabbed. The drone tells you that you can use the phone on the wall to call a family member to bring in your backup paperwork. Ooops, the phone on the wall is missing. And no, you can’t use her phone, that’s strictly for official business.

    4. While you’re sitting there bleeding in the room outside the hospital waiting room, the drone will ask for your phone number so she can call your family if you die. But no, she’s still not going to call them to get your backup paperwork so you can get treatment for your stab wound. Those rules are there for a reason and must be followed!

    As Drew Carey said, it will be like health care run by the DMV. I for the life of me don’t understand people who have this amazing faith that the federal government will produce a better system. Based on what? The great job they did creating the mortgage mess? Their accurate forecasts of future Medicare costs back when the program started in 1965? The quality schools they’ve created in our big cities?

  35. mrfreddy

    hhaha now I know what to do when someone uses my own logic against me, or makes any sort of convincing case againts whatever point I’m trying to make: Just wave it off, say “I’m not really following that argument” and keep talking jibberish! Thanks Mimi!

    It is a pretty useful rhetorical technique.

  36. Em

    Definitely agree that I don’t want the people responsible for the USDA food pyramid monitoring my weight or food intake. However, I agree with Dana that this isn’t a reason to throw out the idea of single payer.

    As far as the VA serving only the “overwhelmingly young,” the VA’s age distribution table is here: 86% of their population is over 40.

    “Do you really believe if we went single-payer, our health care costs would drop dramatically? What are you basing that on?”

    These studies have been done. For example the paper here:

    finds that single payer-type systems do not consistently lower physician salaries but do lower administrative costs, resulting in a modest overall savings.

    “In which single-payer country are costs far less than here, while providing the same level of service?”

    I don’t know if you can find the same level of service, but you may find better:

    From the same study, “Overall, the differences in system performance among the universal coverage OECD countries are very small, while the difference between the performance of any one of these countries and the United States is enormous and persistent.” In another article in the same issue, the researcher finds that ” the U.S. system provides more limited access than do the other OECD nations.”

    According to the WHO, the US ranks dead last (worst) among 19 industrialized countries in preventable deaths aka “Mortality Amenable to Health Care”:

    Incidentally, based on my own experience, I’d rather deal with the VA (or the IRS, or the DMV) than Healthnet.

    Dana was talking about the military. You’re talking about the VA, which is not part of the Defense Department. You’re comparing two different groups.

    Of course WHO gives the U.S. low rankings. But just like with the many bad studies we’ve pointed out about nutrition, you’re looking at people who set out to conduct “studies” with a conclusion in mind.

    Last year, people kept quoting the U.N.’s ranking of the U.S. health system, which was something like 47th. If you believe that is honest and fairly calculated, it means you believe people in Costa Rica have a better health-care system. Suuuuuure, they do. What the U.N. did was give the most weight to the factors that favored government health care, such as “fairness,” defined as equal access for everyone.

    So if I’m in Canada and the rich and poor alike have to wait a year for surgery, that’s “fair” and pushes Canada up in the rankings. (Don’t try to deny the wait times. Their own government web sites are full of promises to reduce the wait times real soon now, and government officials have been caught sneaking into the U.S. to skip the wait times.)

    Meanwhile, the U.N. ranked the U.S. #1 in responsiveness, defined as “delivering health care in a timely manner,” but gave that factor very little weight in the overall rankings. So according the U.N., if one system delivers care quickly but not everyone can afford the same services, while another makes rich and poor wait an equally long time, the second system is better.

    The “death amenable to health care” study was funded by an organization that’s pushing health-care “reform.” You may as well ask the Obama administration to fund a study on the effects of the stimulus package and then expect me to trust their numbers. Who in this study determined the defintion of deaths caused by lousy health care? If more Americans die from complications of diabetes than in France (which has a mere fraction of our diabetes rate), are those counted? And if so, why? That’s a problem with our diets, not with our health care system.

    Another example: My wife was born 2 1/2 months premature and barely survived her first week. If she’d died, in the U.S. that would’ve been counted as an infant mortality. In most other countries, it would not have been counted, because they don’t count preemies as infants.

    We can debate forever about the cost and quality of health care in other countries vs. here, we can cherry-pick to our hearts’ content, but all of you pushing single-payer are missing the real issue:


    Freedom doesn’t prevent collectivists from living as collectivists, but collectivism absolutely prevents those who prefer freedom from having it.

    I think single-payer in the U.S. would suck beyond belief. You think it will be fabulous. In fact, you’re so sure it would be fabulous, you’re willing to use government force to take away my freedom to buy and use private health insurance, which is what I prefer, and force me into the system you prefer.

    By contrast, I’m not forcing you to do anything. (Well, Obama is going to force you to buy insurance, but you’ll need to take that up with him.) You don’t like Healthnet? Great. Don’t subscribe. I won’t force you. But you’ll happily force me into your system. Do you honestly not see the problem here?

    All of you who believe a single-payer system would deliver health care better-faster-cheaper, pretty please, stop trying to force the rest of us to join you. Just get yourselves together and create the damned thing, already. No one’s stopping you. You don’t need the goverment to do it for you. There are plenty of super-rich and powerful liberals in the country with access to top-notch accountants, lawyers, etc.

    So get together with them and form that amazing health-care system! Make it strictly non-profit, since you all think profit is the problem. Don’t turn anyone down. Don’t deny any procedures. Charge premiums based on ability to pay. Keep costs down by making it a model of administrative efficiency. Make it everything you told us a single-payer system would be.

    And then, when the rest of us are dazzled by this affordable, high-quality, comprehensive, compassionate system, you won’t have to stick a gun to our heads to make us live the way you want us to live. We’ll see the error of our capitalist ways and join you.

    None of that will ever happen, of course. Because the drive for single-payer isn’t really about efficiency. It’s about making other people pay for your medical expenses. At least be honest about that.

  37. Bruce

    You wrote

    …If I want to buy a basic policy from a firm in Nebraska, a policy that doesn’t cover psychiatric visits, infertility treatments, or hair transplants (yes, that’s required in at least one state), I should be free to do so.

    That is the way I feel. You have various options on your car insurance, other then the state mandated minimum, why not on health insurance. I am retired, and have the company health insured at no cost to me, but the insurance covers a lot of stuff I’ll never use. If I could opt out of coverage on some of the items I would.

    I wonder what cable would cost if you could pick the channels you wanted? Maybe, give me a base of 10 besides the local channels, and I can pick out 20 more (I doubt I could find that many) Do I really need 3 shopping channels, 6 Spanish channels, and the soap network? How many of these channels would survive if everyone had the option to pick and pay for the ones they really wanted.

    It’s amazing that in this ONE area of the economy, some people believe competition is the problem. Competition works in auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, etc. But by gosh, for health insurance, only getting rid of competition will solve the cost issue. Ridiculous.

  38. Em



    Sure, I’ll agree with not forcing anyone into any system they don’t want to be in, but single-payer doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of insurance companies or forcing anyone to use government insurance. That certainly wasn’t what I was supporting in my comment.

    Single-payer doesn’t necessarily mean that private insurance companies won’t exist. Private schools and universities thrive despite having government funded alternatives.

    The problem with *strictly* for-profit healthcare is that when your sickness costs more than you’re worth, you’re dead. In a strictly for-profit system, a Type I might die because they can’t afford diabetes supplies. (More selfishly, I don’t want a kitchen worker with untreated tuberculosis preparing my restaurant salad.)

    Would waking up and finding that you and everyone else now have a Medicare account–one that you don’t have to use, but could– really be worse, in your opinion, than our current system?

    If I had to pay taxes to support a crappy system that I didn’t want to use, then yes, that would be worse. That would mean I’m paying twice — once for your system, and again for one I’d actually prefer to use. If you expect me to pay for your system, then you’re forcing me into it, even if I don’t use it. You don’t like Healthnet? Imagine if you were ordered to pay them premiums, even though you had to go somewhere else to get the medical service you want. That’s what you’re asking the rest of us to do.

    Single-payer means no private insurance. It’s all one payer, the government. That’s where all those supposed adminstrative efficiencies come from. Canada’s health system — the one held up as model — doesn’t allow citizens to buy health care outside the government system. That’s why rich Canadians come here. That’s why government officials take “vacations” in the U.S. and receive treatment. One of the bigwigs in the Canadian health system flew to California for cancer treatments rather than wait in line. Others have been caught using their political influence to jump ahead in the waiting lists.

    All economic systems ration resources. That’s what economics is all about: the study of how resources are rationed. There’s no such thing as a system where everyone gets everything he or she desires. It’s no different in health care. Private insurance rations care, and so does every government-funded system. Government systems ration by waiting lists. If I have a life-threatening illness, I don’t want to wait six months for tests, and another year for surgery. I’d rather just pay the cost and get it done quickly.

    I wouldn’t hold up Medicare as model. The cost is several times what was projected originally, and even with that, it often doesn’t pay the actual expense of medical care, which is why so many doctors have stopped taking Medicare patients. It’s also why some doctors who accept Medicare run needless tests and conduct needless procedures for which they know they’ll actually be reimbursed. They’re making up for the patients whose treatment didn’t pay anything or actually cost them money.

    Give everyone a Medicare account, make medical care appear “free” to everyone who consumes it, and you’ll have a financial disaster on your hands. I don’t want my kids paying a 60% tax rate because you decided to consume their incomes ahead of time to give yourself free medical care now. You’re not entitled to place your debts on them.

    This country is already swimming in monstrous debt. Create a multi-trillion dollar entitlement on top of that, and we could end up like Argentina … once a first-world, prosperous country, now a basket case because they wouldn’t stop spending. People think that can’t happen here. It can. We can spend ourselves into becoming a poor country. We can crash our economy and create another Great Depression. If that happens, all those promises of “free” quality care will go out the window.

    So no, I don’t want everyone to get a Medicare account. I want real competition to be put back into action. I want medical consumers and providers to have a buyer-seller relationship. The only area of medical care that hasn’t seen double-digit inflation is elective procedures, for exactly that reason: competition. Getting your vision corrected used to cost upwards of $4,000. Now it’s closer to $1000. Why? Because people pay for it. That’s what real competition does. Lazik centers advertise their prices. They undercut each other. Ask most people what a trip to the doctor actually costs, they can’t tell you. And if their medical care is “free,” they not only can’t tell you, they don’t care.

    Like I said, everyone who thinks profit is the problem can band together and start a non-profit system. Just don’t drag me into it, and don’t tax me or my kids to pay for it. If single-payer non-profit is the great efficient system some people seem to think it is, you can easily pay for it by pooling your own resources. Leave the rest of us alone.

  39. Bullinachinashop

    I am Canadian, and even though our health system has problems, we don’t have ***holes like Meme Roth trying to create herself a government job so she can spend her day hating fat people.

    And let the record show that at 2:58 of the above video, she expresses interest in wrapping her hands around a fat girls’ throat because the BMI is not invasive enough (ok I exaggerate, but I reeeeally hate that woman).

    All health-care systems in modern societies have problems, because there are far too many sick people, thanks largely to our diets. There’s simply no good way to pay for that much medical treatment. All we’re doing now is fighting over who has to pay the huge bill.

    I share your sentiment about Meme.

  40. Sarah

    Yeah Meme, fat is a lifestyle choice. Because everyone who’s fat wants to be that way. HURR.

    16 year old comment over =P

    Well, she doesn’t think fat people want to be fat. She just thinks they’re lazy and stupid.

  41. Musings of a Housewife

    I’m a frequent reader, and a not-so-frequent commenter, and I just have to stand up and cheer.

    “The only reason we’re “all paying” for everyone else’s bad health habits in the first place is that Congress violated the Constitution when it forced taxpayers to support socialized medicine.

    If we want to lower the financial burden that “everyone pays” for obesity, let’s get the government out of the health and nutrition business. Allowing them to insert themselves ever more deeply into our lives isn’t the cure. It’s the problem.”


    Thank you.

  42. Juli

    Regardless of what my own issues are, I should have the right to have my own issues, and to keep them to myself. There’s absolutely nothing acceptable about government requiring my (or your) health anything to be filed. I’m an individual citizen. A PRIVATE individual citizen.

    Goodness. I dread hearing what else is in these “plans”.

    Thanks for this post. Its eye-opening.

    The bill was more than 2,000 pages long. I’ll bet all kinds of little surprises are in there.

  43. Drake Remore

    You right-wingers are all idiots…. you give your weight, your blood type, your pressure to the doctor, to help them guage your health…. BMI (albeit not very good indicator) is just another tool…. like you guys, tools.

    If you can’t spot the difference between me voluntarily sharing my height and weight with my doctor and the government demanding (under threat of force, since everything government demands is under threat of force) to know my BMI, then I’m pretty sure I know who the idiot is.

  44. Tom Lagemaan

    When I go to my health care provider I do not permit them to weigh me. At my age I will not PERMIT them to lecture or or instruct me in this matter. It is not open to debate. People you must draw a line in the sand at some time.


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