The Elephant in the Room

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been following the various debates over the nation’s budget and debt with much interest. We all have our preferred measures of dealing with said budgets and debts, but I came across something the other day that struck me in a new light.

You see, there are many who argue that rising health care costs are the elephant in the room. It’s the ever-increasing spending on health care — via Medicare, Medicaid and other government-funded programs — that’s driving our debt sky-high. And, of course, with more and more being spent on medical care, it becomes increasingly difficult to create a balanced budget.

And as I was mulling this over, another piece of news hit my desk, from Gallup. According to its latest numbers, 26.2 percent of Americans were obese in 2012, a number that represents little change from 2011.

A 2009 study — back when obesity rates were slightly lower — calculated that we spend as much as $147 billion a year on the direct and indirect costs of obesity.

You and I both know the costs of obesity — and we know they’re not just financial. Obesity is linked with myriad problems, from diabetes and heart disease to various cancers. All costly. All life-changing. All preventable.

I know that any attempt to legislate a solution would be greeted with cries of “nanny statism” — but I have to admit that I’m at a loss to understand why we’re not taking more forceful measures to deal with this problem.

You can’t force Americans onto a diet, of course. But I wonder if there’s not some way to create a system of incentives to encourage people to act in their own best interest and improve their health.

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