The Life of Julius: federal cradle-to-grave meddling in health care (part 4)

At age 40, Julius recognizes the hand of the federal government at every turn in his personal health choices. One night, he goes to his favorite Italian restaurant and notices the menu is different. It looks cluttered. Next to each item is a calorie total.

He asks his friend Giorgio, the restaurant owner, why the menus have changed. Giorgio says President Obama’s health care plan requires calorie counts on the menu and at the salad bar, too. The restaurant also has to provide a long list of other nutritional information for each item if customers request it, which he says happens rarely.

Then Giorgio warns Julius of bad news on the horizon: He may have to drop Julius’ favorite dessert from the menu. He explains that some cities and states are banning trans fats from restaurants, and Utah could be next. He says new health regulations like these are a result, in part, of lobbying efforts funded by the federal government. 

The next day, Julius goes to pick up some things for his family’s annual Fourth of July picnic. In the beverage aisle, he weighs his options, glancing at different types of soda. A man next to him, Keith, says he better buy all he can now because the Utah Department of Health is using federal grants to lobby for a soft drink tax. Surprised, Julius says that while he appreciates efforts to promote good health, government (federal and state) goes too far with these taxes and regulations. Every person is different, he says, and there are plenty of resources available to help him know what food and drink are best for him and his family without the government telling him.

Keith then warns that money from the federal health care takeover might narrow his health choices even more. He explains that the state is using “community transformation grants” to target specific areas with “health disparities.” The state will do a “community needs health assessment” for each area and then take steps to influence what people in those areas eat and do so the state can secure “health equity” for everyone. Neither Keith nor Julius really knows what “health equity” means.

Keith adds that the state’s “Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity” (PANO) program is also using money from the federal health law to create a 10-year plan to influence the personal health decisions of Utahns. They want to affect what Utahns eat and drink and how often they ride bicycles, walk and watch TV.

Julius says he’ll watch to see what plans the state makes and adds that the whole idea seems unnecessary and intrusive because the vast majority of Utahns have access to helpful information and can decide for themselves what is best for their own health. They don’t need government telling them what to do. Keith adds that many companies on their own are making efforts to promote better health and improve health care, such as Walmart’s “Healthy Food Initiative.”

At age 67, Julius retires from his career and serves more in his community. He now qualifies for Medicare, a federal program that controls his access to health care and that is consuming ever greater amounts of the federal budget. Julius is concerned that Medicare and other costly federal entitlement programs are racking up debt for future generations. Even more, he’s concerned about increasing government intervention in health issues and whether his grandchildren will be able to make any personal health choices of their own.

From cradle to grave, the federal government’s influence in Julius’s personal health is unmistakable and unavoidable. And if trends in spending and regulation are any indication, government involvement in people’s health choices will continue to expand, not diminish.

Julius hopes the U.S. Supreme Court abolishes President Obama’s health care plan, but either way, he hopes everyone will push back against intrusive, costly government health care programs so all Americans are free to make choices regarding their own health.

Go to part 1
Go to part 2
Go to part 3