Healthcare, Politics, and the High Cost of Healthy Foods

Are healthcare, politics, and the high cost of healthy foods related?


Let me start by saying…I am so sick of politics I could throw-up.  But that said, this is about much more than politics.  It’s about the warped reality we are all living in, from the White House to our local supermarket and fast food joint.

About two weeks ago I read an article comparing the cost of health care to the cost of food.  It suggests that the best way to solve the healthcare crisis, is for all consumers to be forced to pay more for healthcare – Because then people would think about the cost before “choosing” certain tests and treatments.  What a shocking revelation…Who would have thought (other than the CATO Institute) that the people who can’t afford expensive health care services would “choose” not to have them?  Although, I wouldn’t really consider that a choice.

Ironically, the article also makes an analogy reinforcing the fact that low-income families are essentially forced to make unhealthy food choices do to the high cost of healthy foods.  And not only is this OK with the author of this article, but it’s actually the method he proposes to solve the health care crisis.

This is from the article in Real Clear Politics

If everyone were to receive a CT brain scan every year as part of their annual physical, we would undoubtedly discover a small number of brain cancers much earlier than we otherwise would, perhaps early enough to save the patient’s life.

But given the cost of such a scan, adding it to everyone’s annual physical would quickly bankrupt the nation. But, if they are spending their own money, consumers will make their own rationing decisions based on price and value. That CT scan that looked so desirable when someone else was paying, may not be so desirable if you have to pay for it yourself. The consumer himself becomes the one who says no.

Think of it this way. If every time you went to the grocery store, someone else paid 87 percent of your bill, not only would you eat a lot more steak and a lot less hamburger – but so would your dog. And food costs would go up for everyone.

Granted…All things equal, this is a sensible way to get Americans to think twice about what tests and procedures they choose to have.

But..NEWS FLASH!!!  All things are NOT created equal.

The truth is, we have people in this country that can’t afford to even see a doctor, let alone request a yearly CT scan.  Things are NOT equal, not by a long-shot.  And guess what?  Most of these low-income people are hard working Americans (even military veterans).  I imagine the author of the above article would sleep better believing that low-income is synonymous with lazy, therefore making a certain population undeserving of healthy foods or healthcare.  But, it’s just not true.

Anyway, this post isn’t just about the politics of health care.  It’s actually about how the high cost of healthy food is dramatically complicating the healthcare issue, and the fact that many people can not afford to “choose” to eat healthy.  Did you ever wonder why the dollar menu has become so popular?

I write a lot about making healthy food choices.  But I also know that the high cost of healthy food makes it difficult for many people to make those healthier choices.  What I didn’t know was that this hasn’t always been the case.  I imagined that the cost of all foods (healthy and otherwise) were less expensive 30 years ago, so I was shocked to read this comparison from SmartPlanet earlier today…This is why you’re fat, America

Here’s the outlay comparing now to 1978:

  • Soda  is 33 percent cheaper
  • Butter is 29 percent cheaper
  • Beer is 15 percent cheaper
  • Fish is 2 percent more expensive
  • Vegetables are 41 percent more expensive
  • Fruits  are 46 percent more expensive
  • Bucking the trend, cookies are now more expensive.

Is anyone else shocked by these statistics?  It’s no wonder the average 18-year-old today is 15 pounds heavier than his counterpart in the 70s, and why adults have put on more than 20 pounds compared to their 1970s selves.

But who’s to blame?  Cause there is always someone to blame.  Right?  Well, this may or may not surprise you…

The graphic in this article from Good Medicine Magazine demonstrates how government policies are largely contributing to the high cost of healthy food…

The Farm Bill, a massive piece of federal legislation making its way through Congress, governs what children are fed in schools and what food assistance programs can distribute to recipients. The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals. By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products—the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies.

It’s a tangled web that ultimately traps the poor with less healthy food options, causing an increase in medical problems associated with obesity, and little to no access to health care.  This isn’t going to be an easy fix, but if we don’t start fixing it now, can you imagine where we will be in another 30 years?

Did I mention I am sooooo sick of politics?

Also See:

*image from NY Daily News

8 comments for “Healthcare, Politics, and the High Cost of Healthy Foods

  1. Catherine Morgan
    March 17, 2010 at 1:27 am

    I heard another strange analogy about whether or not the healthcare bill should be passed. It went something like this…

    Why would we want a healthcare bill that needs to be fixed? You wouldn’t buy a house that needs to be fixed.

    Really? You wouldn’t buy a house that needs to be fixed? Even if you had no other shelter?

    Maybe it’s just me…But I would rather have something that needs to be fixed than nothing at all.

  2. March 17, 2010 at 5:46 am

    I’m with you on the house analogy. In fact, a house that needs work can be the best investment you can make assuming that you are able to fix it up, and frankly the price is better!

    I’m frustrated by the food production industry (and yes POLITICS!) as well. The interconnectedness between the food production industry and the health care industry is so often ignored–good, healthy food means healthy humans-It’s so very simple and sensible. Until you add shareholders and profits to the mix: that’s when feeding humans properly & making appropriate health care available (basic human needs) no longer matter–so long as some choice wallets are being well-fed and well-cared-for.

    Survival of the fittest has become survival of the richest.

  3. Catherine Morgan
    March 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Hi Margaret. I agree…If things continue the way they are now, survival of the fittest will become survival of the richest. What’s really sad, is that so many people seem to be OK with that. The “every man for himself” mentality is ugly to me.

    Thanks for commenting.

  4. April 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Hey, It’s Ashley from BlogHer. I just commented on your recent heart post.

    Thank you, thank you thank you for this post! When will government realize that health promotion doesn’t work because it assumes that people CHOOSE to eat poorly, or that they just don’t know any better. It’s ridiculous. It’s all about blaming the individuals rather than fixing the broader social problems like food insecurity.

  5. Catherine Morgan
    April 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Hi Ashley. Thanks for your comment on my BlogHer post, I just finished responding to it. I agree that eating poorly isn’t always a choice for many people, cost and availability also plays a large role.

    Thanks for commenting.

  6. Cairo
    April 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Thankyou! I’m 11 and I have to do what I wonder and I found this and this helped me ALOT! I picked why healthey foods cost more! Thanks alot Ashley! Your blog did wonders because it is WONDEFUL! :)))

  7. Jordan Cook
    August 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    It’s unfortunate how expensive it can be to eat healthier foods. Although, farmers markets are your friends when it comes to organic, local fruits and veggies.

  8. Mary
    January 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Fruits and vegetables can be purchased at lower unit costs, with careful choices. Apples, cabbage, even broccoli can be very lower cost/pound. There are several vegetables and fruits that can be purchased for under 0.25/serving. When you consider the cost of trim loss, the edible portion therefore seems expensive. While it is true that fresh produce items have higher stickers, that is also based on perception. We get frustrated if the lettuce spoils before we eat it, thus it is spendy. In addition, people think 75 cents for a banana is too much, but willingly pay more than $1.50 for soda and coffee and don’t blink an eye. The truth is that people are unwilling to take the additional time and planning to make better food choices, and then blame the cost. Farmers markets are actually not helping as much as their prices for organics can be very high.

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