If you live in Arizona, you might soon have to pay the state government $50 to live your life as either a fat slob or a smoker. That's because Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced late last week that she's proposing "fees for adults who lead unhealthy lives," as a plan to revamp the state's Medicaid program.
Here's how it would work: Adults without children who are obese or suffer from a chronic condition and who fail to work with their doctor to meet specific goals would have to cough up $50 a year. The annual fee would apply to ALL childless adult smokers.
Sounds, uh ... oppressive and ridiculous.
Monica Coury, assistant director of Arizona's Medicaid program, told ABC News:
If you're not going to manage those things and take some personal responsibility, and in turn that costs the state more money, then you need to have some skin in the game.
Obviously, the state of Arizona and the federal government in general are trying to figure out how to pay for the ever-ballooning costs of Medicare with this "Fat Fee," as it's been called. And they're riding the wave of the Tea Party, puppeting the line about "personal responsibility!" as if that somehow justifies villainizing people who need help.
As far as smokers go, I do think people who continue to smoke without attempting to quit are clearly trying to make themselves sick. (My own parents fall into this category.) But I also think the states should just tax the hell out of cigarettes to raise money for Medicare -- not fine people for being smokers. Now, tell me Gov. Brewer, how are you gonna be able to know if someone's a sneaky smoker? Interview her friends and family? Install special smoke alarms in everyone's house?
What's even MORE absurd, though, is trying to charge people for being overweight and failing to make progress with their doctors.
What kind of standards will people have to meet? Will everyone have to reach their ideal BMI in order to avoid the charge? What about people who suffer from thyroid disorders, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, injuries, or severe disabilities that prevent them from exercising? What kind of "specific goals" will they have to meet with their doctors? It sounds like they're trying to take something that is actually very subjective (personal wellness) and squeeze it into neat and tidy boxes to make a quick buck.
But hey, Arizona isn't alone in trying to milk money out of obese people. Alabama did it too in 2008; they announced that government employees would have to pay $25 a month for insurance, otherwise free, if they didn't attempt to lose weight. There were already surcharges for people who smoked.
I just don't think threatening and punishing people with medical conditions that are out of their own control to either pay a premium or lose weight is the answer to a budget crisis. It's ironic, too, how Arizona, trying to be all libertarian about this is actually trying to assert MORE control over its residents' lives, hanging over constituents' bathroom scales.
I vehemently agree with Arizona Democratic State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema who responded to the proposed fee by saying:
We know that drinking Coke and soda pop isn't good for you, and people do it; the governor herself is one of those people. It's very nanny state.
But hey, if it's approved (and I hope/think it won't be, because federal government rules may prevent it), the provision would take effect on October 1. Either way, Arizona residents who want to save some money might want to start thinking about a slim-down plan STAT.
Do you think smokers and obese people have a "personal responsibility" to quit or trim down for the sake of the Arizona state budget?
Image via tenaciousme/Flickr