Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What's your motivation?

There was a piece on the news today about some legislation an ice skater is advocating. It's supported by the "Coalition for a Healthy Maryland" and would involve tax cuts for Marylanders who are trying to lose weight, stop smoking or exercising.

So how would that work? Are tax representatives going to come into your home and count your cigarettes? Will you have to send your Weight Watchers results to the state capital? Will my Wii Fit share my data with random government workers?

The first thing I wanted to find out is who is this coalition? From their website:

We are a collaboration of Maryland businesses, health clubs, insurers, non-profit associations and individuals determined to improve the health of our State.

The next question is what do they get out of the legislation? Let's look at the suggestions from their website.

1. Combat Childhood Obesity in Maryland
Incentive:

  • Includes a tax deduction per child for efforts to reverse childhood obesity
  • Provided to parents of children participating in a qualified program designed to combat childhood obesity

2. Reduce Smoking and Tobacco Use in Maryland
Incentive:

  • Includes a tax credit for cessation related efforts
  • Provided to users of qualified smoking / tobacco cessation programs

3. Promote Senior Fitness & Wellness in Maryland
Incentive:

  • Annual tax deduction for seniors (65+) with qualified fitness & wellness expenses

The rest of the list is similar, with emphasis on enrolling in qualified programs, programs run by the very people who are behind the legislation.

It's a pretty nice gig if you can get it. Health clubs, weight loss centers, etc are all feeling the pinch of the bad economy so what do they do? Promote legislation that will get clients in the door so said clients can get tax breaks.

I'm all for promoting healthy lifestyles but I think this particular example is ridiculous. How many people do you know who have joined a health club and never gone? Or have quit after a couple of weeks? Let's look at some programs that actually work and emulate those.

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