I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since a my short post on why universal healthcare is not automatically fat-friendly.
I’ve often been confused by what I see as hypocrisy in those who are proponents of both sovereignty of body (i.e. – our bodies, our choices) and universal healthcare, which places the care of, and ultimately the control of, our bodies into the hands of the state.
Many of the proponents argue that they’d rather have the state, an objective third-party with no profit motive, have control over their healthcare than the profit-motivated private sector.
However, I must take issue with that sentiment. The state is not an objective third party with no profit motive.
First off, the state’s decisions are not objective – they are made by regulators, who are often appointed by politicians, or hired by a committee headed by politicians. The main goal of all politicians, regardless of what they might say to get elected, is power. This is a good and bad thing, of course. We want the good politicians with our interests at heart to have more power than the bad politicians who oppose our interests.
Politicians are not specialized or disinterested third parties. They are not hired based on merit, with respect to the issues they espouse: they are elected by a body of non-specialists. And, as we know, even specialists can be biased and motivated to skew truth to attain personal or institutional goals, so even electing specialists wouldn’t guarantee us diddly squat.
As such, the individuals appointed to regulate healthcare and hence our bodies will be appointed ultimately by politicians. More likely politicians will “contract out” appointments to whatever healthcare organization lobbies the hardest, or has the most friends amongst the Washington elite.
When it comes down to it, the people who have the power to control your body, and by extension your behavior, will be those who crave the greatest power they can get, and will appeal to the electoral body and the misconceptions and fears of that electoral body for healthcare decisions about your body.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not very keen on the electoral body telling me what I can/cannot eat, how much and in what way I should exercise, what medications I should take, and how I should govern the health and safety of my children.
The electoral majority currently believes that I am fat because I eat too much and exercise too little. They believe that diabetes and even certain cancers can be prevented or cured by weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass or a lap-band implant.
They believe there are “good” and “bad” foods imbued with the magical power of health or illness. They believe that processed foods make you fat, and organic, locally-grown foods would keep you generally thinner.
They believe that shunning, chastising, or mocking fat people because of their weight is for our own good. They believe that hanging around fatter people can make you fat, too.
The electoral majority believes that fat adults are stupid, lazy, and lack the power of will. They believe that naturally thinner people are lucky, and that unnaturally thinner people are heroic. “Have you lost weight?” is considered one of the highest forms of praise.
The electoral majority believes that fat children are being mistreated by their stupid, lazy, ignorant parents, especially if those parents are themselves fat (and many parents of fat parents are fat, though of course not all). The electoral majority believes there is a childhood obesity “epidemic,” and that children will begin to have the heart attacks and strokes traditionally enjoyed by 50-somethings with a family history of heart disease.
The electoral majority believes that if you feed children the “right” foods, these days a low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb diet usually only prescribed to people with heart-disease — it will make the children not only permanently thin, but it will prevent heart-disease, strokes, diabetes, and certain cancers, without reference to variable family histories.
The electoral majority believes that the greatest risk factors for heart disease, strokes, certain cancers, and diabetes is fat, and that fatness is the greatest predictor of future or current ill-health. It very clearly isn’t, and even the biggest crackpot medical doctor will admit, when pressed, that fatness is a lesser risk factor than several other factors, with family history at the top of that list.
The electoral majority fears and loathes fat so much, that they refuse to use their common sense, even in the face of overwhelming counterexamples to their misconceptions, like given in the above paragraph.
The electoral majority doesn’t know what certain BMIs look like, or even what “obese” looks like. Their mental images are usually supplied by nightly news scare-footage of individuals who nearly always have the highest BMIs, who are in fact a small percentage of those who are actually technically “obese.”
I don’t know about you, but I do not want decisions made about my body, my behavior, and the bodies and behavior of my family being made by these people.
The idea that there will be some objective institution — some university or government institution perhaps that magically doesn’t have conflict-of-interest funding and their own political interests at heart — which will make objective, rigorously scientific decisions about care guidelines is a myth. I challenge you to give me an example, from any of the world’s universal healthcare governments, of a guideline-issuing body that is scientifically objective and not controlled/funded/influenced by other interests with their own agendas (whether profit or power).
Some people say that healthcare is or should be a right. Well, you can’t successfully institute a right that trounces other rights. The “right” to healthcare is the right of the government to healthcontrol.
That trounces on my personal liberty, the most important part of which is the right of body privacy. You cannot enter, not even with a warrant. The body is off-limits.
Universal healthcare is healthcontrol. It is not, especially in this current climate, a friend to fat people. It will only serve the interests of the electoral majority, who at this time fear and loathe fat, blame fat people for everything from rising fuel costs, to rising healthcare costs, to global warming.
Do you want these people to have control over your body and your health decisions? Do you want these people to have control over what premiums you pay, and what care you are allowed to receive? Do you want these people to have control over the body-monitoring of children in schools and doctor’s offices? Do you, do you really?
I am specifically not talking about relative costs in this article. There are many more eloquent than I who have made the argument that free-market healthcare is vastly more affordable, efficient, and equitable than universal healthcare. And if you think what America currently enjoys is free-market healthcare, you are sadly mistaken. My personal premium in Massachusetts is four times the amount it is in some other states, though I’m receiving the same care. Healthcare premiums are directly proportional to the amount of regulations on healthcare from state to state. (see WSJ.com — it’s in the archives for this week).
For those who believe that universal healthcare will ensure everyone is safe and healthy while under our current system some people are left out in the cold, let me ask you this: why would the complete regulation of healthcare make it more affordable person-to-person, while the evidence shows that regulation only makes premiums more expensive?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to pare down regulations on healthcare so that people in states like mine who can’t afford a $300/mo individual premium, but who can afford a $100/mo premium, would gain the ability to purchase healthcare? How many people would are currently uninsured, would then choose to be on the rolls?
Additionally, without having to pay abnormally high premiums on every individual insured under universal healthcare, the government would have more money in its coffers to offer an affordable plan to the impoverished citizens of our country. Our taxes would remain low, and fewer and fewer people would remain uninsured. We’d never get 100% of citizens insured, which is as it should be — individuals should have the option to opt out of insurance for whatever reason they choose, even if they can afford it.
But even disregarding the economic argument above — even assuming that somehow universal healthcare is the boon many make it out to be — we again face the problems of the electoral majority and healthcontrol.
Taxes will necessarily be raised in order to pay for universal healthcare. All the people who currently do not have policies will need to be subsidized. People who currently own more expensive policies and use more medical resources than others will need to be subsidized by those who use fewer resources. Institutions will have to be created to regulate healthcare, state hospitals will be built, employees and maintenance and so forth will be hired.
Given also that greater regulation means more paperwork which means hiring more people and building buildings to house those people and so forth, individual premiums will certainly be more expensive, on average, than they are now, under universal healthcare.
In short, there is no way that the current average individual premium could possibly go down under universal healthcare. It will only go up.
How is this efficient? Same quality of care for more money? Who’s paying? The taxpayers. Who will get angry when their taxes go up, and look for someone to blame, some group of people who are “more expensive” members of the healthcare community, those who have, unlike older people (who are always going to be more expensive), brought their ill health “upon themselves”?
This argument is already being rehearsed.
Nearly everywhere you hear — even in America — people claiming that fat people are making the country’s healthcare premiums go way up. People are angry that they are being made to pay for weight loss surgery (I agree with them. I do not want to pay for someone else’s weight loss surgery). They blame heart disease, certain cancers, strokes, and diabetes largely on fat, so when they hear about how expensive it is to treat these conditions, who do you think they’re going to blame?
Taxpayers—the electoral majority—who hold all the misconceptions I listed above (obviously there are some exceptions, like those in the FA community), are going to believe that fat people are costing them money, through their irresponsible, ignorant, lazy behavior. Do you see where this is going? Do we see how it has gone in some other countries, even states in our own union, who want to make fat people pay more for healthcare, or be denied health services with no option to turn anywhere else, just because they are fat?
We are very lucky to currently be able to state, “My fat is none of your business,” when encountering fat hatred, or “My fat has nothing to do with you. I’m not hurting anyone.”
Under universal healthcare, we will no longer have that freedom.
Under universal healthcare, they will believe that our fat is indeed their business, because it is costing them money. They will believe it has everything to do with them, and that it does indeed hurt them and their desired lifestyle. They will believe that they couldn’t afford to send their kids to private school because of fat people. They will believe that the government couldn’t afford to send the proper equipment to the troops because of fat people. And so on, and so forth.
Do you understand? Do you get what I’m trying so desperately to convey?
The only way we can fight our fight and win is to retain our sovereignty over our own body. Once our body becomes common property, the misconceptions about fat will turn fat people into easy scapegoats, and will institutionalize fat hatred. We will no longer be able to say, “Hands off!” We shall be immensely less free, and will become institutionalized second-class citizens. And brother, whatever you say about our practical second-class citizenship currently, it is peanuts compared to what we’d suffer as institutionalized second-class citizens.
Universal healthcare should be opposed by fat activists.
Fat Americans, universal healthcare is not your friend. Regardless of how you believe the current heavily regulated market economy healthcare is broken, at the end of the day, we still have sovereignty over our own bodies. We can opt out of discriminating plans, we can choose to pay more, some plans still do not discriminate against fat, and, above all, nobody else can honestly claim the right to dictate our health or our choices to us.
Human rights cannot contradict each other. Beware of anything people claim to be a right which does.
By adopting universal healthcare so we can redistribute income in the direction of the poor, we will put the currently uninsured 15% on the rolls, but we will lose something much, much more important: The fundamental right to govern our own bodies.