Regulating Health

Regulating Health Overview: In the absence of a national consensus about health care reform, many cities have taken the lead in providing health care and protecting their residents’ health and welfare. For example, San Francisco provides universal health access for its residents, while New York and Chicago ban unhealthy ingredients, such as trans fat, or unhealthy behaviors such as smoking.

What is the government’s role in regulating healthy and unhealthy behavior, especially if the government bears the financial responsibility for health care? It is a fine balance between personal freedom and the government’s responsibility to provide for the health and welfare of the majority of its citizens. Have these local governments gone too far?

Directions: Read the issues below, then circle the statement with which you agree. Then write a supporting detail to support your reasoning.

The Issue: Trans fat, used to fry many common foods such as French fries and donuts, raises cholesterol levels, clogs arteries, and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In 2006, New York City passed legislation requiring all city restaurants to eliminate trans fat by July 2008, creating an uproar in the restaurant industry.

Restaurants may still serve fried foods, but they will have to find healthier frying oils if they want to continue to operate in New York City. Has New York City gone too far in trying to legislate people’s diets or is the city government fulfilling its responsibility to protect its residents’ health and welfare?

New York City should ban trans fat:

New York City should not ban trans fat:

Reasoning:

The Issue: In 2007, San Francisco began its Healthy San Francisco Plan, designed to provide health care for all San Francisco citizens, including an estimated 82,000 uninsured. Under the plan, all uninsured residents can seek care at the city’s public and private clinics and hospitals. The basic coverage, which is about access to health care rather than health insurance, includes lab work, prescriptions, x-rays, surgery, and preventative care.

The city plans to pay for this $203 million coverage by rerouting the $104 million the city currently spends treating the uninsured in emergency rooms, mandating business contributions, and requiring income-adjusted enrollment fees. The plan requires all businesses with more than 20 employees to contribute a percentage toward the plan, a mandate many area business owners consider too burdensome. Some business owners warn that businesses will not stay in the city if the plan is approved. The mayor, however, sees universal health access as a moral obligation for the city.

San Francisco has an obligation to provide its citizens with health access:

San Francisco does not have an obligation to provide its citizens with health access:

Reasoning:

The Issue: San Francisco, which currently funds a health access program that guarantees basic health care for all its residents, passed legislation in March 2008 that requires chain restaurants to post nutritional information on their menus. The legislation is designed to help people make informed decisions about healthy eating and aims to curb rising obesity and diabetes rates. Opponents say that menu labeling will not change people’s eating habits, and is an unfair burden to restaurants.

San Francisco should require chain restaurants to post nutrition information:

San Francisco should not require chain restaurants to post nutrition information:

Reasoning:

The Issue: In 2008, Chicago banned smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants, beaches, and parks. The bans are designed to protect people from the negative health effects of secondhand smoke. Opponents of the plan believe that the government does not have the right to interfere with a business owner’s choice to regulate smoking in his or her own establishment.

Chicago should ban smoking:

Chicago should not ban smoking:

Reasoning: ting H