Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma (which everyone should pick up and read, stat), has an op-ed in today's New York Times about the link between healthcare and big agriculture, and how the healthcare reforms currently being debated can, if they make it through congress intact, have a huge effect on the industrial food industry.
The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.
When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system — everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches — will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.
Yet another reason we need healthcare reform so badly.
Big Food vs. Big Insurance [nytimes op-ed]