I have two items for my write-up today on Newt Gingrich's Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare.
On pages 73-74, Newt talks about childhood nutrition. He laments that
"School lunches...contribute to instilling unhealthy eating habits in
children" because they "are high in carbohydrates and fail to offer a
variety of healthy alternatives such as soymilk", when "Foods containing
soy protein are effective in reducing cholesterol, treating kidney
disease, and may cause calcium to be better utilized, helping to ward
off osteoporosis." Newt states that the dairy industry is being put
ahead of children's nutritional needs. Newt then discusses a school
district in California that has banned sodas on campuses, replacing them
with milk, "beverages with at least 50% fruit juice, and sports drinks
with less than 42 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving". Newt says that
childhood obesity is a growing problem.
Newt goes on to say that
he's not in favor of banning soft drinks and whole milk, but that people
should learn about balance. But Newt may support the school's ban on
soft drinks, for he says that "The soft drink companies should be
challenged to expect to produce healthy alternatives or to expect to
have reduced access to young people as a market."
What Newt said in this 2003 book intrigued me, in light of conservative snark about Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign (see here). I wonder what the difference is between Newt's approach to this issue and that of Michelle Obama.
any case, as much as I like soda, I think that schools should promote
healthier dietary habits. Many conservatives decry Michelle Obama's
anti-obesity program as characteristic of a big government nanny state,
and some of them defiantly affirm that they have a right to eat whatever
they want, even if it's unhealthy. But eating in an unhealthy
manner doesn't just affect the person eating in an unhealthy manner. It
produces health problems that impact everyone else----in terms of
higher health care costs and insurance premiums.
wouldn't go so far as to say that the government should ban junk food.
I seriously doubt that Michelle Obama goes that far, either.
But schools and school lunches should be stocked with healthy food and
drinks. Michelle Obama does well to work with restaurants to encourage
them to have healthy items on menus. A health care program that
encourages preventative care----which entails doctors coaching patients
to eat right----can benefit individuals and society as a whole.
Newt once again expresses disapproval of third-party payers for health
care. Newt supports health savings accounts----tax-free accounts of
employees to which employers will contribute. But Newt's proposals do
not get rid of insurance altogether. Newt believes that health-savings
accounts will reduce premiums because people would have money in their
account for medical needs, and thus could have a higher deductible in
their health insurance. Newt also wants to move America away from
employer-based health insurance, yet he recognizes that it's more
expensive for individuals to purchase health insurance. As a solution,
he proposes a tax credit for the individual purchase of health
insurance, and also that groups (i.e., of small businesses,
organizations, etc.) be able to purchase health insurance.
I think that these ideas are a step in the right direction, but I doubt that they're adequate for everybody.
Would a tax credit help individuals who don't make enough to pay much
in taxes to begin with? Would health-savings accounts provide enough
money for costly operations? Moreover, while Newt's proposal that small
businesses come together to purchase health insurance may have merit, I
question whether Republicans have the will to push for this. I
remember George W. Bush supporting this idea when he debated John
Kerry. Then Bush won, and I didn't hear about the idea again. (But
maybe Bush did mention it, since he supported some proposal regarding
health insurance, which was rejected by the Democrats.)