HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

Price-Less: Make America Red Again.

Posted on | March 21, 2017 | No Comments

Mike Magee

In the weeks ahead, we will see how far backwards our health will slide under Republican leadership. In the President’s budget proposal this week, we see that he doesn’t care much for the EPA. Juxtapose that with this week’s BMJ study revealing a link between global warming and rising rates of diabetes. “Fake News?”

OK, then let’s try another. In September, 2008, feisty Republican candidate for president, Sarah Palin, took some heat for installing a tanning booth in the Governor’s Mansion in Alaska. Tanning beds were big business back then. There were 25,000 plus tanning salons in business at the time, with 160,000 employees and 30 million customers spending $2 billion a year.

Skin cancer rates were soaring. At the time, the AMA called for three simple and reasonable steps to bring about change. Number one, tanning booths should be off-limits to those 18 or younger. Number two, the FDA should conduct hearings to weigh-in on risk and the need for increased regulation. And number three, booths should come with a Surgeon General’s warning.

Responsible legislators like Carolyn B. Maloney, Democratic congresswoman from New York, advanced bills to help limit the carnage. At the time, she said, “New cigarette packs say smoking causes cancer. We don’t want to wait another 50 years to have labels that adequately warn people that tanning beds cause cancer.”

President Obama won the election, and signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. As part of the law, our country levied a 10% tax on all tanning sessions, which will deliver $600 million in health supporting revenues over the next decade. This, along with growing educational initiatives and stigmatization of what some called “cancer beds”, caused over half of the nation’s tanning salons to close down. About 9,500 remain.

American Academy of Dermatology President Henry Lim says that 8% of the 419,000 cases of skin cancer each year are the result of tanning bed UV exposure. He says “The indoor tanning tax serves as a deterrent to discourage this dangerous activity, especially among young women.” But Secretary Tom Price, the candidate supported by both the AMA and AAMC, doesn’t believe much in taxation or regulation.

The Republican plan, set for a vote this week in the House, will cut $883 billion in taxes that were associated with funding the ACA. 40% of the recipient funds would go to the richest 1% in our country, worsening the income disparity which Republican Peggy Noonan says is the largest threat to our democracy. Corporations will thrive with breaks of $145 billion to health insurers, $25 billion to drug companies, and $25 billion to medical device companies. Nearly an equal amount in total, $880 billion, will be removed from the poor and vulnerable citizens covered by Medicaid.

The bill, if passed, will also drop the 10% tax on tanning bed sessions.

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