The new administration's plan for a revamped health care system has some good points, and takes aim at one issue that is long overdue: health care for children. The crux of the Obama plan is to expand a Medicare-type plan for people less than 65 years of age. Medicare does a great job in providing healthcare and covers a large part of the population, but the fact is that Medicare spending has been rising steadily. Add another hefty chunk of the country into the program and you wonder if the program can handle added weight.
What rules might come with this? Remember that the argument used to ostracize smokers was that if they smoke a great deal and then get sick, they will eventually put an added weight on the Medicare system – and we all pay for that. What about people that have poor eating habits? Doesn't diabetes add to the financial concerns of Medicare?
Governor Paterson's tax on items such as sugary soft drinks might be a good first step in getting people away from such harmful eating habits. The state needs to enhance revenue and there is no easy fix, but the governor is looking for ways to fix the problem. Bringing back the sales tax for items under $100 is a bad idea. New York does not need to lose customers to New Jersey…again.
There are some things that Daschle, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, might consider. As we talk about heath care, we rarely talk about wellness. Our diets have changed, and because of that, the state of our health has changed.
Cases of people with heart disease went up dramatically after the Great Depression ended. As the economy got better, people began eating more processed food. Add to that the ugly profession of food marketing, and 60 years later we are a country with childhood diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. People that had less ate less. Now, as former senator Phil Gramm has said "we are the only country with fat poor people." Phil is from Texas.
Paterson, on the state level, and Daschle, on the federal level, should be pushing for food education to be taught in our public schools. There is a clear difference in eating habits in poor areas in our country. Some people just do not know any better. We taught sex education in public schools, why not food education? Why do we leave all food information to the food marketers and corporate board room profiteers?
I was in a cab not long ago when my driver was drinking Red Bull, a high-caffeine content soft drink. He was telling me about his blood pressure. "Look," I said "If there is one thing that African-American and Italian men have in common, it’s high blood pressure. That's no good for you." He was completely surprised that his pressure could be hurt by that drink.
Daschle needs to press the new Education Secretary to have all drinks with high levels of sugar and high levels of high fructose corn syrup out of the system. There would be a discernable difference in the energy in the classroom – a good difference. So far, there has been very little done on the state level by way of legislation.
Paterson's taxes are not expected to be well received. The commuter tax would be a big help, if it were brought back, and would add another $400 million a year to the economy. That would take the heat off fare hikes right there. Sales tax should be left alone. As for the iPod-tax, I am Luddite, and have nothing to say on the matter.