Is Cheap Food To Blame For Our Expensive Health Care?

Michael Pollan thinks so. He’s got an op-ed in the NYT where he examines the relationship between or expensive health care and our cheap fast food.

Pollan says:

But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.

Why the disconnect? Probably because reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the health care system. At least in the health care battle, the administration can count some powerful corporate interests on its side – like the large segment of the Fortune 500 that has concluded the current system is unsustainable.

That is hardly the case when it comes to challenging agribusiness. Cheap food is going to be popular as long as the social and environmental costs of that food are charged to the future. There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

He goes on to suggest ways that health care reform might align the insurance companies priorities with those of public health crusaders. Pollan says that each case of Type II diabetes prevented could save the insurers $400,000 — if they couldn’t just rely on purging their rolls to keep costs down.

What do you think? Does Pollan make his case?

Big Food vs. Big Insurance [NYT]
(Photo:Scott Ableman)

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