Policy-ish

Guns And Butter Are No Recipe For Wellness Under Overhaul

Could owning a gun mean your insurance would cost more in the wake of a government health overhaul?

A hand holding a gun. i i
iStockphoto.com
A hand holding a gun.
iStockphoto.com

Yes, claims the Gun Owners of America, which fired off a letter to senators last week, urging them to vote against moving the Democrats' health bill to the floor for debate.

The GOA says "nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier." True, as far as it goes, but there's an almost limitless number of things the bill doesn't explicitly prohibit, such as invading a Latin American country as an office wag put it to us today.

You can adopt the lobbying logic employed by the GOA for just about any health-related cause you hold dear. Section 2717, starting on page 26 of the Reid bill, holds the key. To improve health quality, the bill would allow for financial incentives to encourage wellness and prevention programs for such things as weight management or prevention of heart disease.

If your cause does seem to help health, then you might argue it could lower people's premiums. If you prize something that might be seen as unhealthy, then you can argue stopping health overhaul is paramount. For us, that might be boatloads of butter on our baked potatoes that aren't helping our cardiovascular risk.

We're not sure about firearms as a preexisting condidtion. But, as NPR's Julie Rovner explained last month, plenty of health groups are worried that language supposed to encourage healthier habits with lower premiums could lead to bias.

"The whole point of health care reform is to make sure that everyone gets insurance," the American Cancer Society-Cancer Action Network's Dick Woodruff told her. "And if people have to pay more because they're unhealthy, that's a barrier. It defeats the whole purpose."

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