Personal Choices, Public Expenses

Definitely everyone should treat themselves as they feel and believe, but that the public should have to pay for those choices is unacceptable.  Over eat, eat fat and chemical laden foods, be bulimic, do not exercise, drink gallons of alcohol and smoke anything, these are personal choices.  Climb the highest mountain barefoot, wander haplessly into the deepest forest, jump off the tallest bridge, never learn to swim and dive in head first, but in these situations the cost of rescue should be a private concern. 

 Grossly high costs to the public for habits known to be deleterious, and actions likely to cause adverse effects must be diverted to the person responsible.  As obesity in America is on a steady increase, so too is the price tag.  $152 billion was the price tag for obesity related health care in 2009, as reported by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.  $559 billion was the price tag to society for the abuse of illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco for 2004, as estimated by the U.S. Surgeon General.  The 2014 price tags will be higher. 

 As it is now mandatory that everyone in the U.S. enroll in health care insurance, these price tags are, more than ever, public concerns. 

 Willful obesity should be factored into an individual’s health care insurance premium, the greater the willful obesity the greater the premium.   Increased premiums should also be applied to smokers, alcoholics and abusers of all substances known to cause health problems. 

 Not uncommonly a formidable mountain is climbed or a challenging endeavor is undertaken by someone ridiculously or hubristically ill prepared.  People needing to be rescued because of wittingly putting themselves in harm’s way must pay for their foolishness. 

 Even when search and rescue teams are made up of volunteers there are often public expenses included, such as when public roads must be shut down, or when police must maintain crowd control and security, or when an ambulance or life flight is required.  Often there are no volunteer teams, or they are acting in conjunction with government teams; in those instances many communities do not have legislation in place allowing them to seek reimbursement for their services.  In small communities, these expenses can be overwhelming to their budget.

 Inevitable or accidental health concerns belong in the realm of affordable insurance, and unavoidable emergencies belong in the realm of publicly paid rescue.  Self-induced health concerns and avoidable emergencies belong in the realm of personal responsibility and public accountability. 

 To determine what is inevitable or accidental as opposed to self-induced, and what is unavoidable as opposed to foolishness, standards should be deliberated over and qualified.  Of course there will always be situations that do not fit into predetermined standards, or that will fall into great gray patches of understanding.  In these cases, panels of peer and expert reviewers should be formed and utilized. 

 Being personally irresponsible to the extent of being publicly unaccountable should not be tolerated.  Knowing that medical care and emergency services for self-induced health risks and foolish behavior will not be freely given, will promote personal responsibility and public accountability.  Public money not having to be spent on abusers and fools will then be able to be spent on quality programs to advance personal health and public wellbeing. 

 Joan Brown ~ contributor