correlation-does-not-imply-causationLooks like “health care reform” is still up for discussion. Paul Ryan, a spokesperson for the “congress now has a responsibility to balance the budget” side of the aisle, is quoted today as saying that the repeal of ObamaCare will be in the budget proposed later this week by the US House of Representatives. Previously, he has proposed policy changes that would take away some of my health care security. Under Ryan’s proposals, for example, if I am unfortunate enough to lose my job (and health insurance) at 60, I would have until age 67 to fear chronic illnesses and would then have to find someone willing to sell me a policy at that age using my Medicare voucher. Fortunately, since I have been able to put away a little money, I will not be limited to the amount of the voucher but will be able contribute to health care inflation by purchasing extra care. I guess money can’t buy you love but can buy you long acting insulin.

There is a belief that by giving folks like me “skin in the game” the invisible hand will take effect. I have written about my problem with this belief here and here. What I do believe is that health care will continue to be 20% of the federal budget, with or without Congressman Ryan’s efforts. The federal government will continue to pay for over half of all health care in this country,  with or without Obamacare.

S0…how can the federal government reduce health care costs without resulting to socialism? Let’s look at obesity as an example. Over 30% of Americans are obese. Obesity accounts for  $147 billion in excess healthcare costs annually. Each obese Medicare recipient costs us, the taxpayer, an extra $1700 and each obese Medicaid recipient costs an extra $1000. So maybe we can find some common ground…

ObesityVehiclesMilesDriven_lg (1)

This graph illustrates both the changes in the amount of miles driven by Americans and the number of obese Americans over time. See a relationship? These people do.

As the Oct. 2011 article pointed out, the relationship between sedentary travel and health outcomes can be misleading when additional contributing factors are not taken into account. While it is not our intent to claim a direct causal link between transportation modes and obesity rates, it is hard to deny the existence of some geographic patterns.

Maybe Congressman Ryan could work towards eliminating federal policies associated with long commute times? Eliminating the mortgage deduction, for example, would reduce the incentive given to own a single family home distant from the center city.  Eliminating the federal highway subsidies would make communities think twice before expanding “free” ways. Less time in the car would allow more time to exercise.


This is the correlation of consumption of drinks made with high fructose corn syrup and obesity. Perhaps the Congressman could work on reducing the subsidization of corn and soybeans 

A new report released on Wednesday by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer advocacy group, highlights often tragic consequences of long-standing federal agriculture policies that have showered hundreds of billions of dollars on a small handful of crops including corn and soybeans that are processed into additives. They are the mainstays of the junk food industry.

Of the $277 billion spent on farm subsidy programs since 1995, about $81.7 billion went to subsidize corn and $26.3 billion went for soybeans. In a sign of the political clout of the biggest producers, 75 percent of the all those subsidies have gone to just 3.8 percent of U.S. farmers. In contrast, the government has provided only $637 million for apples or vegetables.

Or, being from Wisconsin, maybe his efforts would be better spent on reducing our subsidization of pizza.

But in a series of confidential agreements approved by agriculture secretaries in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Dairy Management has worked with restaurants to expand their menus with cheese-laden products.

Consider the Taco Bell steak quesadilla, with cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella and a creamy sauce. “The item used an average of eight times more cheese than other items on their menu,” the Agriculture Department said in a report, extolling Dairy Management’s work — without mentioning that the quesadilla has more than three-quarters of the daily recommended level of saturated fat and sodium.

Or maybe not (from his website):

Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP)

The Dairy Market Stabilization Program, also referred to as “supply chain management,” was not included in the extension of the 2008 Farm Bill as passed in H.R.8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act. Should a full five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill be voted on in the 113th Congress, I will remain vigilant in monitoring the development of this issue and its effects on dairy farmers in Wisconsin.