"Why should the whole population basically pay for the preventable actions which other people choose?"
That was the question posed by Paul Frijters of the Queensland University of Technology as he introduced a "user pays" principle to curb the escalating costs of healthcare associated with the obesity epidemic in Australia.
Professor Frijters urged the Federal Government to lift restrictions on health insurance companies to ask questions about a person's weight and allow them to calculate increased premiums based on body mass index.
Obesity has been linked to a number of life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
"There's a much heavier use of medicine and there's much heavier use of hospital care by obese people," Professor Frijters said. "Obesity is so closely related to lifestyle choices and the costs associated with it are becoming so great that it's no longer tenable to simply gloss over it."
In the UK, the media is hot on the warning that obesity could bankrupt the healthcare system in that country.
Professor Sattar, an expert in metabolic medicine, said research had linked obesity to a range of diseases and disorders, including heart disease, cancer, depression, back pain, diabetes and skin problems. He said: "The problem of rising prevalence in obesity may get much worse - rates could climb still further, bankrupting the health system and leading soon to reductions in life expectancy. "So we need to think out of the box, nothing that has been looked at so far seem to have worked."
He said while individuals "clearly have some responsibility for their health", the rest of society should also play more of a role. He said the food industry should own up to the role they play through advertising and schools should be doing more to promote good diets and lifestyles.
Among the ideas put forth to help individuals take some responsibility - warning labels on larger size clothing with a phone number to call a helpline!
I kid you not!
The number should be promoted on the labels of all clothes sold with a waist of more than 40in (102cm) for men, 37in (94cm) for boys, 35in (88cm) for women, and 31in (80cm) for girls.
What's happening here in the states?
Well, from Texas we find this interesting opinion, "Then I stopped and thought — for every person who doesn’t have insurance and spends their time jamming unhealthy foods down their gullet, there’s a cost. When they wheel portly New Yorkers into the hospital with a burrito in one hand and a donut in the other — there’s a cost.
I don’t want the government controlling my life — but I also don’t want it to keep dipping into my pocket because someone else continues to make a stupid mistake that will cost themselves their life and the rest of us millions — if not billions — of dollars."
From Milwaulkee there's this - "None of my columns has elicited the wrath of the masses. I'm about to change that. Because statistically speaking, it's a pretty good bet for me to say that you're fat. And I'm ticked off because you're hurting my wallet.
People often ask how I stay so skinny. It's true; compared to most people I encounter on a typical day, I look like a rail. But according to the chart for body mass index, my current height and weight (6'1, 155 pounds) fits within the ideal BMI parameters.
What's my secret? And why am I ticked off that a big portion of my paycheck goes to treating obesity-related illness? Because my being skinny is not an accident; I have to work at it. During the past 13 years, I've run enough miles - more than 25,000 - to circle the Earth. When that damaged the tendons in my foot, rather than sit and mope, I hit the weight room, took up swimming, bought a bike and, if nothing else, took 60 minutes or more each day to walk. Though I have a weakness for chocolate, a look into my typical grocery cart reveals things like broccoli, spinach, multigrain bread and apples. My alcohol consumption is usually no more than one drink a week. Fast food? Strictly reserved for my few trips a year back home to Minneapolis. In other words, I make the choices necessary to avoid obesity-related illness."
And, a recent survey, reported in Insurance News Net found "more than 25% of Americans are comfortable with charging obese people higher premiums for their benefits."
Clothing with warning labels? Higher premiums based on BMI? Obese people choose to be fat?
What do you think?