Arizona Governor Proposes Flab Fee

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flabfee.gifThe governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, has a plan to save her state money and decrease her state's deficit. She is proposing a fee for adults who do not make healthy lifestyle choices. Under Brewer's plan, unmarried, childless Medicaid recipients who are obese, diabetic or are smokers would have to pay $50 per year if they do not work with their physicians to lose weight or quit smoking.

Similar plans are already in effect elsewhere–smokers and obese employees at several private companies and state governments have higher insurance rates than employees who are non-smokers and are not obese. But if Brewer, a Republican, has her way, Arizona would be the first state to impose the fine for a state-federal program.

“My proposal includes requirements and incentive strategies that will encourage individuals to take greater control of their health,” Brewer explains.

Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema (D) disagrees with the plan.

“There are some people who have diabetes and are obese through no fault of their own," she says. "To fine people for medical conditions that might be beyond their control, that's just not right. This would punish people with disabilities who have done nothing wrong.”

I agree that people should not be held responsible for their genetics, but this proposal raises other issues.

Brewer is specifically targeting childless people who are obese and/or smoke. Perhaps this is because she wants to ensure that families do not pay the price for one member's unhealthy habits.

But the truth is, they already do. Children of overweight parents and children of smokers are more likely to follow their parents into obesity or into a smoking habit than children of healthy-weight and non-smoking parents. If Brewer really cares about the health of her state's citizens, it does not make sense to exempt the adults who are passing along unhealthy lifestyle choices to their children.

That said, I wonder why Brewer proposes penalizing the individual at all. It would seem to me that raising taxes on the products linked to unhealthy lifestyles would make more sense and would have a greater effect than fining low-income residents.

Does the governor really want to encourage a healthy lifestyle–or just punish the unhealthy?

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