LLOYD OMDAHL: New health rules — 'Stop aging and eating'Sixty-four percent of North Dakotans are overweight or obese — and the number is rapidly expanding. I am a few pounds over the edge myself, but it isn’t because I am fat — I am half an inch too short.
By: Lloyd Omdahl, Grand Forks Herald
Paul von Ebers, president and CEO of Blue Cross-Blue Shield, implored me to attend one of his forums on health care. He did so in a form letter, but it was an earnest request because my participation was “critical to moving forward with solutions that work for North Dakota.”
With the future of North Dakota health care in the balance, I could not snub such an invitation.
Sifting through the discussion, I concluded that there were at least four major forces driving the cost of medical care through the roof: age, fat, technology and the uninsured.
First, let’s look at age. As people get older, they need more replacement parts — mostly new hips and knees, and human parts are just about as expensive as auto parts. So it costs a lot to keep old people on their feet.
This need for human reconstruction is compounded by the fact that North Dakotans live longer than people in every other state except Florida. (It is the residence of former North Dakotans in Miami that give Florida the edge on age.) That means more new knees and hips.
No one at the forum had a solution for aging. Letting old people drive into their 90s would help, but that would result in an intolerable amount of collateral damage.
Everyone accepts aging. In fact, we encourage it. It is a subject that can be talked about. But when it comes to fat, that topic arouses all kinds of animosity because it isn’t politically correct to talk about.
Besides, the unfat are in a minority, so speaking boldly can result in a fat lip.
Sixty-four percent of North Dakotans are overweight or obese — and the number is rapidly expanding. I am a few pounds over the edge myself, but it isn’t because I am fat — I am half an inch too short.
The whole country is overweight. We have a so-called Christian country speeding down the road of obesity while children around the world are starving! So much for being doers of the Word.
Unlike aging, there are solutions for overweight and obesity. They are called diet and exercise. But we have too much capital invested in restaurants to stress dieting. Besides, eating is more fun than dieting, and eating is the only thing keeping the economy alive. Wholesale dieting would be a job killer — unpatriotic in these hard times.
So, let’s look at exercise. To combat the fat avalanche, Blue Cross offers financial incentives to people who adopt an exercise program. But only a few people participate. Blue Cross needs to get people’s attention, maybe by basing insurance premiums on weight.
Because the old and the fat consume a disproportionate share of the premium income, the not so old and not so fat are paying extra for the ailments of the old and the fat.
Not only that, the not so old and not so fat also pay for all of the uninsured who show up in emergency rooms and clinics.
I was an overnight guest in the hospital recently, and the bill came to $15,000. I’ll bet I could have gotten a good motel room in Williston or Dickinson for that much.
And I am sure that a good chunk of the $15,000 was assessed to help pay for those who stayed overnight but didn’t have insurance.
Why should the people who have insurance pay higher premiums to cover the uninsured? Someday, somebody is going to wise up and suggest that everyone be required to have their own insurance.
I let Blue Cross down by not offering any helpful solutions to meet North Dakota’s health challenges. As for me personally, the easiest solution for my weight problem is to grow that other half-inch.