Senator Tom Harkin is sponsoring a bill he says will help transform America’s “sick care” system into a “health care” system.Harkin says the time has come to quit talking so much about health insurance and how to pay for care when people get sick because the country’s digging itself into a deeper hole. Harkin says it’s time to begin to promote healthier lifestyles and the prevention of chronic diseases. Harkin says there’s a “major public health crisis” in America since 65 percent of Americans are overweight or obese — and the Centers for Disease Control says poor nutrition and lack of physical activity will soon overtake smoking as the number one cause of death in the U.S. Harkin says “it’s time for Congress to step up in a big way.” Harkin proposes new federal incentives to build more bike and walking paths and stricter federal rules for junk food advertising that’s aimed at children. Harkin would also offer tax credits to businesses that pay for health club memberships for their employees. Chain restaurants would be forced to provide nutrition information on their menus if Harkin’s bill becomes law.Harkin says the health care system is “screwed up” because it’s primarily geared to help you when you get sick. He says it’s time to provide more “front-end” incentives to schools, businesses and individuals to promote physical activity and wellness. About one-point-eight trillion dollars was spent on the nation’s health care system last year, and about 75 percent of that money was spent on care for chronic diseases. Harkin doesn’t expect his bill to become law this year, but Harkin says he hopes it becomes part of this year’s campaign debate so it’ll be seriously considered by Congress in 2005.
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