Obese? Sorry, we can’t serve you (Daily dose of crazy – Southern edition)

No, it’s not April 1…and yes, the title of this post spells out what will be the case for Mississippi restaurant-goers if a house bill (no. 282) introduced by state Representatives W. T. Mayhall, Jr. (R), John Read (R), and Bobby Shows (D) passes. According to the first page of the bill:

“Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Prevention and Management…”

This applies to any state-licensed food establishment, which is probably nearly every restaurant in the state. And since Mississippi has an obesity rate of around 30%, that means that about a third of the population would not be able to dine out. A restaurant that fails to comply may have it’s permit revoked.

Nanny state, anyone? Who has the right to tell you what you can or cannot eat? The government apparently thinks it has that responsibility…at least in Mississippi. I really hope this bill doesn’t pass, and I doubt it will because it’s such an outrageous affront to the rights of people in that state. But it does serve as a reminder of the responsibilities the government will assume if we let them into our lives. For instance, if we put the government in charge of health care, such as through a single-payer system, then perhaps it would be up to our legislators to keep us in line by punishing or prohibiting unhealthy behavior. Consider the UK, where about 1 in 10 people are denied surgeries because they smoke or are obese. I don’t want to pay for someone else’s poor choices, but I also don’t want the government punishing me for mine. To me, this is what insurance is for – protecting yourself against future risks, not (contrary to what many people seem to think) subsidizing someone else’s risks. Greater risks equal greater premiums, pure and simple.

To me, the obesity thing is discrimination…but in a state-run society such discrimination might be ethically justified if it kept costs down and allows more people access to services. Is this really the path we want for our country? First we go against the obese, but who would be next? We’ve already attacked smokers, maybe we should go after people who drink too much, or who aren’t necessarily obese but still live incredibly sedentary lives. If you don’t eat 3-6 servings of fruits and veggies a day then you’ll be denied health care. I know these seem like extreme examples, but are they really that far-fetched? According to the UK article I linked above, physicians across the pond think lifestyle should play a greater role in determining who receives health services. If they continue down that path, they’ll end up with either a country of boring clones who conform to their ideals, or a country where only a minority of it’s citizens have full access to the services their tax-dollars support.

Fortunately I don’t condone discrimination, so I don’t condone a society run entirely by government bureaucrats.


Source – The Smoking Gun



  1. Dave said,

    February 3, 2008 at 8:59 am

    It is amazing how no mater what country you live in (I live in Scotland), goverments seem to think they can demand to control our lives. To determine if someone is obese would be a medical judgement, and that should only be made by a medical expert and with the patients permision. Since when did people need to have a medical to eat? I wonder how many of those demanding such stupid laws would be denied access to services.

  2. Barb Lulay Bryan said,

    February 26, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    “I don’t want to pay for someone else’s poor choices, but I also don’t want the government punishing me for mine…. Greater risks equal greater premiums, pure and simple.”

    In other words, you don’t want the government punishing you for your poor choices, but you’re happy to have the insurance companies do it, instead. Bean-counters are better arbiters of your choices that bureaucrats, then? You don’t want to just let everyone wait around long enough to face the natural consequences of their ability at risk assessment–or poor luck, since “good” choices don’t guarantee outcome but only mitigate risk? Aha…you really can’t pay your own way when it comes to the risk of poor health. Your “good” choices can’t guarantee a good outcome. It is a risk that you must face collaboratively, or not at all. We must choose to either provide health care to those who can’t pay for it–and without the shared enterprise of health insurance, almost no one can–or else content ourselves to watch the unfortunate sick and injured suffer without health care. Health, then, is a collective problem.

    Face it: we can’t have it both ways. It hardly matters whether the artificial incentives and disincentives come from the public or the private sector.
    Either we give each other license to let nature take its course and collectively take whatever natural consequences there are in that, or we put restrictions on all of us and all live with the resulting combination of artificial and natural benefits and losses, both private and collective, with the goal of collectively improving our shared quality of life.

    The trick, I think, is in striking a balance between collectively demanding responsibility for the public welfare and collectively defending the freedom to make what could turn out to be some more or less costly mistakes, for whatever reason those choices are made. We collectively decide how much we are going to support or restrain each other in the risks and benefits we run by daring to live. That is the task of effective government, which we all share.

    That proposed Mississippi bill is a silly law on the face of it, nanny state or not. I can’t imagine it will pass, or if it passes that it will survive for long. It isn’t remotely practical, let alone fair. And by the way, blame that on the lawmakers, not the poor people working in the various government bureaus who might be charged with enforcing it.

  3. Lily said,

    March 2, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    A few points…
    First, believe it or not there is a big difference between a government bureaucrat making reimbursement decisions vs. an insurance “bean-counter”. It is much more difficult to switch countries then it is to switch insurance carriers, making the latter a bit more flexible and responsive to people’s needs.
    I also think you set up a false dichotomy regarding health insurance – either we provide it for everyone or people must suffer? Why must “charity” always come from the barrel of a gun (i.e. government taxation and redistribution)? I don’t advocate a system run by insurance companies – I advocate a system run by people. I think people purchase too much insurance expecting it to cover predictable costs like well-visits or medications…with the result being diminished payments where people need them most (catastrophic events). I think we should focus on saving money for the predictable health care costs that come with advancing age, coupled with high-deductible catastrophic coverage for instances of “bad luck” as you put it. Then perhaps the government could actually target it’s limited resources at the very poor who actually need help, rather than slowly pulling everyone under it’s umbrella (which inevitably seems to result in more stupid nanny state laws such as this).

    Maybe we can also acknowledge that Americans in general are charitable people, and that instead of letting our fellow man suffer because of “bad luck”, we would set up charities to help people cover unexpected health expenses, or have networks of doctors willing to provide free care in certain instances. Such a situation will be far more flexible and respond better to the incredible variation of a population – something a large government (almost by definition) seems incapable of doing.

    I agree that we can’t have it both ways – but I firmly believe the best way to improve quality of life in the health care sector is to put it to market forces. Equality will not be achieved, but I don’t think equality should be the goal – simply achieving equality means nothing if we do so by lowering the bar. I think the goal should be improving health overall, and that demands a flexible approach to the problem.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Rich said,

    June 19, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    In a world of unequal people, the only way everyone can get equal results is for each to be crippled to the least common denominator.

    The intelligent would be lobotomized.
    The tall would be shortened.
    The speedy would be lamed.
    And the beautiful maimed.

    Since we can’t make people better, we would have to make everyone equally bad.

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