September 10, 2009

Michael Pollan Is Sick

More evidence that food writer Michael Pollan is a paid spokesman for the health insurance industry, or perhaps just their useful idiot, comes in today's New York Times. Pollan offers an opinion piece explaining how for-profit health insurance is key to reforming the American diet.

His argument is that new rules preventing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions will impel the insurance industry to fight against obesity, and their power is necessary in opposing high-fructose corn syrup subsidies.

The incentive, however, already exists, and the source of profits will not change. In fact, by expanding public expenditure, the existing incentives would also expand.

Pollan ignores the fact that obesity is more an issue of poverty and sedentary work and leisure than of diet per se. He ignores the fact that the consequences of obesity (e.g., type 2 diabetes, heart disease, circulatory disease) mostly manifest at a later age, when Medicare is paying. And that suggests that since, as Pollan aptly notes, "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", a position it is already in, then it is the government that needs to resolve that conflict — for the public good, not to maximize insurance-company profits.

Pollan legitimizes some of the worst elements in this debate: the concern for private insurance companies (as if they must be accommodated in any change rather than the other way around), and the illogical distraction of "personal responsibility". But to call for empowering Big Insurance in the hope that they will take on Big Food is simply idiotic.

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism