Food, Politics, and Health Care

I’m getting weary of the health care debate, but I’m not going to stop paying attention. It is very important for everyone in our country, but as one of the leaders of Horst Engineering, a small business, it is particularly important to me. Our health care premiums are a huge part of our cost of goods. In my opinion, what we pay is just too much. In the past 10 years, we have had annual increases as high as 22% and never lower than 5%. On top of all this, the quality of the insurance has declined, co-pays have gone up, and we have been burdened with huge switching costs as we have bounced from one insurer to the next.

When you have only 75 US based  employees like we do, you are quite small. It takes a huge effort to manage our company health care system. We pay massive taxes on top of our premiums, on top of our health savings account contributions, and on top of all our other business expenses. Don’t you think the government should play some role in this mess? What role? I think they should, though I am uncertain about how deep this involvement should be. The Connecticut Business & Industry Association has a pretty good handle on the debate and so far we have sided with the groups opinion, which is to minimize government’s role in health care by getting the politicians to focus on reforms, rather than running the system.

What is lacking in this whole debate is the need to focus on wellness and prevention. That is the missing element, and food expert, Michael Pollan, spoke out this week. His New York Times editorial clearly articulates his position, which I agree with. The key quote: “As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them.” So true. I’m an ovo-vegetarian for many reasons, including health, athletic, animal rights, and environmental issues. I don’t eat meat or dairy products and most of the eggs that I eat come from a farm on my street. I read a newspaper story last week about how it is common practice in the chicken industry to grind up less than perfect baby chicks while they are still alive. This is the type of deplorable behavior that makes farming look like the worst kind of manufacturing on earth.

At Horst Engineering, we cut metal all day long. Imagine cutting meat instead of metal. I would think the rules of engagement are different. Scrap metal is a little different from scrap chicken. We need both, but we only ingest one. Of course, only some of us (most Americans) choose to ingest meat. Needless to say, Pollan’s opinion that the country needs to engage in a discussion about food rather than a discussion about health care, is a good one. Obesity and inflammation related disorders kill most of us. What you put in your body is a big deal. Last month, NPR aired a ridiculous interview with an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Crazily, she took the opposite view of Pollan. She championed processed foods and got hammered (with comments) for it. It is well worth reading. If you agree with her position, you are clearly missing something and should strive to learn more.

Another interesting commentary on the health care debate and politics in general, came from Thomas Friedman this week. His recent column declares that our type of democracy is a reason why we are lagging behind China and other countries in so many areas. It is hard to remain positive when you read this stuff. We export our knowledge, outsource much of our manufacturing, refuse to focus on wellness, and argue incessantly about how to fix these problems. Many of our leaders are misguided. It is important that we speak out.

Small and mid-sized businesses are not heard from enough. The Fortune 500 have their droves of lobbyists. They get their message heard and often deliver it with gobs of money in the form of political contributions. This recession has disproportionately hurt small businesses. We face higher taxes, higher business costs, and now the potential for even higher health care costs. Pausing the debate doesn’t seem like the best option, but ramming through a misguided overhaul is likely to be the worse scenario.

1 Response to “Food, Politics, and Health Care”

  1. 1 mw2013 12 September 2009 at 10:52 am

    yes, our eating choices are so closely linked to our state of health, yet so few people really care to take responsibility. It’s so much easier to take some magic pill to relieve a symptom, but at what cost and with what side effects?!? Let’s subsidize organic farmers and tax fast food. You don’t see many vegans in the cardiac ward now do you?

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