Monday, June 22, 2009

On Tobacco and Health Care

I briefly watched our President speak about the new tobacco law. I was surprised to learn that peer pressure wasn't the driving force behind teen smoking, as it was when I was a teenager. No, the driving force is advertising, combined with candy-flavored cigarettes that make smoking more accessible. I also learned that, unlike the traditional warning printed on cigarette boxes, which no one pays any attention to, the new graphic details of the effects of smoking that will be prominently pictured on the sides of the new cigarette packaging will be much more effective in scaring would-be smokers.

All sarcasm aside, I really wanted to talk about the new government health plan instead. First, it's a good indicator of how bad things are that people with health insurance are filing bankruptcy due to medical bills. I'll talk about an implication of that later. An even better indicator of how bad things are is that the very idea that the people who brought you Medicare can do a better job of providing health insurance than private industry is spoken in public with a straight face. What's even worse is that those people are most likely correct.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. One thing I expect to happen is that the government health plan will come out at a much lower price point than the private plans, eventually choking them out. One thing I don't expect to see happen is a re-evaluation of the process and the underlying model of the body. But you never know. We could throw out the model of body as machine and replace it with the model of body as garden. We could question whether the patent-protected new drugs with horrific side effects are really worth the money we're spending on them. Or it may be more effective to daydream about winning the lottery and retiring in Hawaii.

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