Health Care and the State of the Union

There’s always a bit of political grandstanding that goes on during a president’s state of the union address, but it is especially ratcheted up during an election year. This is one of the key moments for President Obama to make the case for his re-election. That means he is most likely to talk about the economy and various issues surrounding it.

Insiders say topics will include the continuing housing crisis, jobs, and fixing a tax and financial system that many think is unfairly rigged for the richest few.

What, if anything, will be said about the state of healthcare in the U.S.? It seems doubtful much of anything, other than a cursory mention, given what most people will be voting on this year.

Much of the address will be targeting the all-important voting block of the middle class. Many of them are certainly struggling with their pocketbooks… but many are also without healthcare. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people without health insurance coverage was 49.9 million in 2010.

While the home and job crises are rightly at the forefront of most people’s minds, the health crisis we are in is probably just as important. Unfortunately, people are programmed to not pay much attention to anything that does not immediately impact their needs or wants. In other words, one in three Americans may be obese, but unless that obesity is causing tangible and immediate problems, people too often will not be overly concerned.

Most times we lose weight to improve our looks. One of the lesser thought of issues related to obesity is its real economic impact on people, their families and the country as a whole. There are many reasons healthcare is so expensive, not the least of which is having one of every three people obese.

Obesity will never be directly addressed in a State of the Union anytime soon, frankly because it’s not a topic that wins you votes. But it’s a real threat to our country. In 2008, the medical costs related to obesity in the United States totaled about $147 billion. If you want to delve deeper, studies have revealed impacts beyond medical costs, including lower work productivity.

While the easy (and lazy) response from thin people is to bash the obese and say they need to shape up or pay the consequences, the cold hard facts of the matter is that on some level the healthcare costs related to obesity are shared by everyone whether we like it or not. Of course, healthy people have every right to be angry about that, but not dealing with reality gets us nowhere. This means we need to think of public policy that will educate and incentivize everyone to understand why their health is important to everyone in more ways than they realize.

View 2012 Presidential Candidate Positions on Health Care Slideshow

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