Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Government Medical System in Japan Requires Mandatory Waistline Checks

According to the June 13, 2008 New York Times, government officials in Japan have instituted a mandatory program where all men and women between ages 40 and 74 must have their waistlines measured and recorded by the government. The purpose of this program is to reduce costs from obesity-related health conditions, because the government health system must pay the bills:
Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

...To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.

The ministry also says that curbing widening waistlines will rein in a rapidly aging society's ballooning health care costs, one of the most serious and politically delicate problems facing Japan today. Most Japanese are covered under public health care or through their work.
The government limits are very strict -- "33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women" -- literally a "one-size-fits-all" standard.

One Japanese man did express his disdain for the new regulations:
...Kenzo Nagata, 73, a toy store owner, said he had ignored a letter summoning him to a so-called special checkup. His waistline was no one's business but his own, he said, though he volunteered that, at 32.7 inches, it fell safely below the limit. He planned to disregard the second notice that the city was scheduled to mail to the recalcitrant.

"I'm not going," he said. "I don't think that concerns me."
Once a government starts violating individual rights by creating a "universal" health care system, this inevitably leads to further infringements of individual rights. This is not unique to Japan.

For instance, universal health care in Great Britain has led to infringements on the right to free speech. In 2007, the British government banned television stations from playing classic 1950's-era humorous advertisements encouraging people to have an egg for breakfast, on the grounds that "the ads do not encourage healthy eating".

When a government has to pay for everyone's health care, it will naturally demand a say in whether people are leading a "sufficiently healthy" lifestyle, as defined by the government.

Colorado writer Steve Schweitzberger made a similar point in this June 30, 2007 letter to the Rocky Mountain News, referring to universal health care advocate and filmmaker Michael Moore:
If Michael Moore has a toothache, it is not my responsibility to pay for his dentistry. If it were, then I would have the right to tell him not to eat sweets. I don't want that kind of government-paid medical policy. Do you?
This is a question that all America should be asking.