Health care and obesity

Recently, Matt Ridley posted a piece on his blog entitled Thinning Vouchers. The idea is to give vouchers to overweight folks and allow them to use them to find ways to lose weight.

Personally, I think this is a bad idea.   First, I don’t see where government is authorized to do this.  Second, I doubt it would be effective.  And third, perhaps we should more carefully consider incentives that contribute to obesity.

Much is made about the obesity rate in the U.S.  I’m assuming it’s higher than rates in countries with socialized medicine.  Some might point to the socialized health care of those countries and I think they would be onto something.

There’s a chance that the folks in those countries take better care of themselves because they want to avoid using their beloved health system.  In their heart of hearts they want to avoid the long wait times, the chances of getting an infection with extended stays and the overall poor quality for more serious ailments.

In the U.S., we essentially have a socialized system without much of the third-party rationing yet (which is one reason we spend such a high percent of GDP).  Folks have less incentive to take care of themselves.  When they need treatment, it’s usually convenient and often it’s covered with little out-of-pocket expense.

If this is correct, this would suggest that there could be two health care options for reducing obesity:

  1. Let third-parties ration down to the same level of GDP as other countries to lower the quality enough to cause people to want to avoid it.
  2. Letting folks pay more of their medical costs.
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