U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said this morning that the idea of using a tax on sodas/junk food to help pay for health care reform is generating some fizz in Capitol Hill.
“It’s on the table. It could be,” Harkin said during his weekly conference call with print scribes. “And quite frankly, I’m pre-disposed (to it).
“That’s what’s making people unhealthy and obese,” he said.
Harkin rejected the notion that a government tax on food choices could play into the hands of critics trying to shoot down the broader health overhaul.
Actually, Harkin said, all the tax would do is help us listen to our “DNA.” Harkin says we’re all wired genetically to be healthy, but our sugar-coated society steers us to make bad choices. A tax hike, he contends, would help rewire our Twinkie-centric social structure.
It’s actually about eduction, not revenue, he said.
“We’re not telling people what they should eat or what they shouldn’t,” Harkin said. “It’s going to give people the information of how to be healthy.”
Still, he didn’t explain how this fairly complex argument about the unhealthy structure of society would counter the fairly simple, bumper-sticker-sized contention that is sure to be leveled by opponents – “Taxing my Ho Ho is a No No.” Or something like that.
Harkin is also pushing for several other provisions focused on preventative health, including workplace wellness programs, reimbursements to health care providers for diabetes screening and other preventative tests and the elimination of patient co-pays and deductibles for those tests.
Harkin said he expects health care reform legislation to be ready for debate by July and on President Obama’s desk this fall.