The GOP candidate wanted to raise health care prices for people with obesity

Billionaire banker and Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde has made health care, namely his beef with Obamacare, one of four central issues on his campaign website.

Democrat Tammy Baldwin’s Republican challenger, who also ran unsuccessfully in 2012, has long opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At the time, Hovde said he did not support anything about it, including its coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions or allowing people to stay on their family’s insurance until age 26.

Now a newly resurfaced video shows that Hovde proposed enacting a particularly cruel health care measure: charging higher premiums for people living with obesity and reducing the amount of care they receive.

You become obese, your health care will cost more, Hovde told public affairs channel WisconsinEye.

Hovde is running against Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Tom Brenner/Reuters

The banking and real estate tycoon, who was carpet-tagged for his lavish California mansion and who invested in insurance accounts in Bermuda that allowed him to avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes , floated this idea during a July 2012 session with the TV show, but it wasn’t widely reported at the time.

Look, we have an explosion of type 2 diabetes right now. explosion Obesity is off the charts. You know, they were removing people from responsibility for their own health, Hovde said.

If they suddenly started realizing that they’re going to pay more for their health care by consuming, you know, consuming large amounts of soda every day or fatty foods and not exercising, they might change their behavior patterns.

Hovde then stated that obesity was a personal choice.

It’s a personal choice, he said, but there should be consequences to those personal choices. Well, you want to, you become obese, your health care will cost more. Either quality or no quality, but the quantity of health care may go down, because you may not have the money to pay for it.

You have to give personal responsibility back to people and also make them smart consumers.

It would be like charging more to people who suffer from cancer or have heart attacks due to genetics or a polluted environment.

The Hovdes campaign did not return messages seeking comment.

Her old comment comes amid a national conversation about weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, and after Oprah Winfrey’s television special focused on the treatments and stigma people face when they have overweight

It also comes as Democrats make eye care a major issue in the 2024 presidential election, with President Biden celebrating the ACA’s 14th anniversary this weekend with a blitz of ads and events highlighting his record on the legislation . Since last fall, Trump has vowed to dismantle Obamacare if elected to a second term, despite record numbers of people enrolling in health plans through his insurance marketplace.

Obesity experts told The Daily Beast that comments like Hovdes’ are discriminatory and show a lack of understanding about obesity as a disease.

Melanie Jay, associate professor of medicine at NYU and director of NYU’s Langone Comprehensive Obesity Research Program, noted that the American Medical Association has considered obesity a disease for a decade. Personal behaviors play a role in all chronic diseases, but obesity is as heritable as height, he said.

We have a very obesogenic environment, no doubt, and its interaction with people’s genes and that’s why people get heavier over time, Jay told The Daily Beast, adding that willpower it doesn’t really play a role in the disease.

Several factors built into the American environment can lead to obesity, including easy access to high-calorie foods, more sedentary jobs, and prescription drugs that put on pounds. There are many reasons, but it’s not the people’s fault that they’ve developed obesity, Jay said.

Jay said that Hovdes’ comments pointing to obesity as something that should raise people’s insurance rates shows that you either don’t understand or you’re actually discriminating against people who have a chronic illness.

Obesity is supposed to be some kind of moral fault for which people should be punished, he said. This is not true.

He added: It’s a pretty horrible and dangerous thing to say.

Eric Hovde

Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty

We already have people who don’t want to get health care because they are ashamed or internalize the shame, Jay said. And then if you make them pay more, you just have barriers to care, and it’s going to get worse.

David S. Seres, MD, professor of medicine at the Institute of Human Nutrition and director of medical nutrition at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said of Hovdes’ comments: This person clearly lacks credibility when it comes to health policy

It would be like charging more to people who suffer from cancer or have heart attacks due to genetics, or the polluted environment, or the overabundance of unhealthy food and the lack of access to healthy food, which is the current environment in the which many people live. That would be plain and simple to blame the victim.

Dr. Angela Fitch, president of the Obesity Medicine Association, said: We cannot create a health care system where sicker people, regardless of their nature, have to pay more. He added that treatment of the disease should be a standard benefit of health plans.

In 2011, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer proposed (and eventually abandoned) a similar cost-saving measure that drew national attention: a $50 annual surcharge for Medicaid recipients who have obesity and do not work with a doctors treatment plan.

Private companies have also penalized overweight workers with insurance surcharges, and CVS Caremark made headlines in 2013 for requiring employees enrolled in its insurance plan to disclose their weights or pay an annual penalty of $600.

Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the nonprofit Obesity Action Coalition, told The Daily Beast that obesity is not a personal choice.

Penalizing obese people in any facet of life, be it work, healthcare, education, etc., is a clear example of weight bias in today’s society and is certainly unethical, Nadglowski said in an email People affected by obesity deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

It is assuming that obesity is some kind of moral fault for which people must be punished. This is not true.

Before his interview with WisconsinEye, Hovde also used the narrative of personal responsibility in a chat with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelsaying that low-income people shouldn’t be left without medical care, but we also need to get people on their feet and start focusing on their health.

We have an obesity crisis, Hovde told the editorial board. We have taken the responsibility of people to try to take care of their own health. He then made a startling correlation, stating that the more we’ve moved into a socialized system of medicine, the higher the country’s type 2 diabetes rates have become.

Seres threw cold water on Hovdes’ claim. Similarly, you could say, and probably have more credibility, that our political support for the industry has led to an overabundance of high-calorie, unhealthy, highly processed foods, Seres said, and there is certainly much more scientific evidence of these people predisposed to diabetes. .

Hovdes suggested the insurance penalty would affect a number of residents, data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services show. The state reported that 68 percent of adults have a body mass index consistent with being overweight (36.1 percent) or obese (32.3 percent), numbers that are just above the national average .

Hovde still focused on health care in 2017, blasting Senate Republicans on a conservative radio show for failing to repeal and replace the ACA.

This year, the crusade has continued. His campaign site argues that Obamacare burdened middle-class people with higher premiums and cites his own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as proof that he experienced the failures of our health care system.

While his page attacks the ACA, it offers no alternative.

Hovdes’ opposition flies in the face of polls showing most Americans support the law, and according to The Hill, Senate Republican leaders say they are unwilling to take on the battle this cycle.

According to a February KFF poll, 59 percent of adults have a favorable opinion of the ACA while 39 percent view it negatively. And 67 percent of respondents said their protections related to pre-existing conditions are very important.

Other KFF data shows that a quarter of non-elderly Wisconsinites, or 883,000, would have been denied health coverage before the ACA because of pre-existing conditions.

Since Hovde stepped into the ring, he’s presented himself as a unit amid toxic partisan divisions, but past soundbytes have come back to haunt him.

19 reported that Hovde once blamed social problems on single mothers and The Daily Cardinala student paper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, exposed his comments by attacking young people as lazy and drug users. rolling stone revealed that Hovde was against the marketing of alcohol in a state where it is an important part of the economy.

The Daily Beast has previously reported on Hovdes’ donations and ties to far-right Republicans, including Sen. Ron Johnson and Congressman Derrick Van Orden, recently in the press for calling lies during Biden’s State of the Union.

Hovde is just a wealthy candidate the GOP is counting on to flip the Senate. One poll shows Baldwin, the two-term incumbent, leads Hovde by 3 points, and people rate the economy as their No. 1 priority, followed by health care.

If you’re about to have surgery, don’t you want the best doctor? Hovde tweeted Thursday. If you’re about to get on a plane, don’t you want the best pilot? We have a dire economic situation on our hands. I am the best candidate in this race equipped with the skills to get us out of it. Not everyone was buying it.

An X user replied: You’re not the next doctor mate.

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