News Friday August 20, 2010

Should there be an obesity tax?

A report looking into the future of healthcare in Britain has suggested levying penalties imposed on overweight people who refuse to change their behaviour and drop to a healthy weight.

The report, Visions Of Britain 2020, suggests that this legislation could be similar in nature to the smoking ban. The paper goes into great detail of the potential impact of people eating unhealthily, exercising too little, and drinking too much alcohol.

Experts have condemned government campaigns designed to change attitudes towards health and fitness and now suggest taking a harder line.

Experts told the researchers they expect treatments, such as IVF, dental treatment, obesity surgery and drugs, dementia treatment and complementary therapies will no longer be free in 2020.

Instead, people will be encouraged to lead healthier lifestyles with the aim of preventing or staving off debilitating conditions in their older age. The report states: “In looking ahead to 2020 we anticipate tighter controls on ‘unhealthy’ behaviours at some cost to our liberties.”

Today the NHS struggles to deal with its workload, and with both an increasingly aging population and the rate of obesity slowly climbing every year, drastic measures may need to be taken.

The end of the NHS as we know it?

Essentially, the report advises that people who refuse to change their ways should be made to pay for their care. Though a possible solution to what appears to be an impending crisis, some of the suggestions in the report go against the core principle of the NHS, which is that good healthcare should be freely available to all, regardless of wealth or background.

Trevor Matthews, of Friends Provident, which was part of the team that compiled the report, said “We all need to adopt healthier lifestyles or else risk being faced with penalties in the years ahead.”

Commenting directly on the obesity penalties implied by the research, Trevor added, “some of the behaviours identified in the report mean that these changes will be much harder on us than we expect them to be.”

But government is optimistic

Public Health Minister, Anne Milton, said: “This Government will always keep an NHS which is comprehensive, free and based on need, not ability to pay. This report suggests that improving public health is a lost cause and we don’t agree. We are determined to create a public health system that truly helps people live longer and healthier lives…”

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