Are you too fat? Is your kid? Your state legislator wants to know.
Last week, the Carolina Journal reported that state legislators in both the House and the Senate want to weigh your kid. Officials are debating over which kids should have body mass index tests, with the results reported to state government, of course. They haven't decided whether to subject all public school children in the state to the humiliation of a weigh-in, or whether they'll just go after those on Medicaid or public assistance through their doctors' offices.
Why this is suddenly urgent when they are facing a massive $3 billion budget hole over the next few years is anybody's guess. Ditto for the $12 million they want to spend to -- no joke -- "retrofit" school cafeterias and train cafeteria workers to "present fresh fruit and vegetables in a manner that invites kids to select and eat." And this is while teachers are being fired across the state due to budget cuts. They also want to institute mandatory exercise programs in day care centers.
This governmental weigh-in obsession didn't start with the kids, by the way. In the first phase, state workers learned that they and their family members who are covered by state health plans will be subjected to random, unscheduled weigh-ins at school or work. If any member of the family is found to be too fat or tests positive for nicotine, indicating that they have been smoking, they could be docked thousands of dollars as they are forced to retroactively pay a higher cost for their plans.
If you aren't a state worker or don't have a kid on a government program or in school, you're probably thinking that this won't apply to you, but just wait. When the new national health care plan goes into effect, another 15 percent of North Carolinians will be on Medicaid. (The cost is an additional $850 million per year to the state, which is already broke -- but who's counting?) And with the states running government health care exchanges that everyone will be forced to buy insurance from, it won't be long until everyone is on a "state" health care plan. Then the state takes the next logical step -- mandatory weigh-ins for all. That is, if the federal government doesn't do it first.
I imagine the weigh-ins will take place during visits to the doctor, with the results reported to the federal or state governments or both. Why would they do this, you ask? There are lots of reasons but the most obvious one is to assist in rationing care. It's already being done in the U.K., which also has a government-run health care system.
In the zip codes where the system is the most overburdened, people seeking procedures like hip surgery are routinely denied or forced to go to the end of the line or wait for months or even years longer if they are found to be overweight or they test positive for nicotine.
In the beginning, though, the government will probably just collect the information on our smoking and drinking habits in order to charge us more money for our health coverage, as the state does now with state workers.
NASCAR museum going nowhere fast?
Last week, our NASCAR Hall of Fame was named in a Wall Street Journal article about several of the nation's municipal debt disasters, which was kind of strange because around these parts the museum, which recently opened, is only considered to be mildly troubled. Attendance is off by about a third from projections, but all the usual suspects say the tourist attraction, which is funded by a hotel tax, will have no trouble generating enough cash to make its debt payments.
But as the Journal points out, the $154 million museum will employ just 115 people, and a recent economic development study pointed out that the increased annual tourism activity it will generate annually won't even equal what one NASCAR race next door in Concord does. It sure does look nice from the I-277 loop, though. I just hope it was worth it.
To those who aren't glued to the Charlotte civic scene, the coverage surrounding the passing of Charlotte City Council member Susan Burgess must seem all encompassing, particularly for those who are just learning her name or things about her.
That's because Burgess wasn't just another local politician, but more of an institution. Without her, the political scene won't be the same in much the same way that the banking scene here, while still thriving, seems oddly flat without Hugh McColl or Ed Crutchfield. Burgess died last week at age 64 after a fight with cancer. A phone call to Burgess was the first I made to a local political figure as a cub political reporter for The Leader newspaper back in 1997.
She went easy on me.