The Wall Street Journal, in its eternal attempts to prove to the rest of us that the only proper way to go through life is rich and dumb, has a piece up today which makes the contention that health insurance makes us fat.
Americans who have health insurance, either private or public, are more likely to gain weight or become obese, wrote authors Jay Bhattacharya and Kate Bundorf from Stanford University, Noemi Pace from University College London and Neeraj Sood from the RAND Corporation. According to the paper, which estimates weight gain in terms of body mass index, a measure of weight related to height, “private insurance increases BMI by 1.3 points and public insurance increases BMI by 2.1 points.”
Besides the fact that BMI is stupid to begin with (an issue we won’t go into here), the study itself seems to show that people are overall just getting fatter – which is unsurprising as our worst food options keep getting cheaper.
Could there be a reason that people on public health insurance are getting heavier more quickly than people with private healthcare? Well, sure – people on public healthcare are likely to either be poorer or older, which means they’re either driven towards cheap, high-calorie food or more sedentary than the average person. The other problem, as far as I can tell, is that they don’t seem to measure the uninsured, which would seem to be pretty vital in terms of figuring out whether or not health insurance causes fucking weight gain.
This creates a truly bizarre set of arguments. The first is that people are somehow making the conscious decision to get fat because insurance just makes it a happy-go-lucky time of free heart tests and cheap blood pressure medication years down the line…or something. The second is that being overweight is something that everyone seemingly wants to do so long as they have any safety net which will allow them to do it (and, presumably, catch the falling bits of fried goodness for later consumption). The third is that we somehow have people getting larger at a time when health care costs are skyrocketing, people are losing health insurance and the insurance people do have is covering less.
If this made any sense, wouldn’t our rate of auto accidents be going up, particularly as states required car insurance and more people got health insurance? By this standard, people should be crashing through McDonalds like the Kool-Aid Man because Aetna lowered their deductible $250.