Three of the nation’s biggest health charities found nothing to laugh about when Comedy Central’s The Daily Show this week featured a segment mocking them for opposing a bill to encourage Americans to exercise, quit smoking, and take other steps to improve their health. Now they are fighting back to explain their side of the story.
In the four-minute segment, former Representative Kathy Dahlkemper, a Pennsylvania Democrat, told the comedian Wyatt Cenac that the charities essentially killed a proposed 2009 bill that would have required health-insurance companies to provide discounts to consumers who tried to reduce their risks of heart attack or other diseases.
In the taped piece, Ms. Dahlkemper accused the charities of preventing the bill from getting approved with their lobbying. She said that in the week after she introduced it, “we started getting visits from the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association. Their argument was that some of the people they represent can’t make lifestyle changes to have a healthier life.”
Mr. Cenac spoofed these visits by dressing up as a doctor and a large heart. The comedian also satirically compared the charities to the mafia and big tobacco companies.
The charities said in a group statement that the segment took “comedic license with the facts. They said that while Ms. Dahlkemper’s bill was “well-intentioned,” they opposed the legislation because it would have allowed health insurers to reduce or raise health-care premiums based on a person’s health, which could be potentially discriminatory.
“The impact of these provisions would have been to penalize people with pre-existing health conditions,” the statement said. “We oppose the use of penalties based on a person’s health status, especially when the penalties are tied to health-care premiums.”
The charities said that at the time they worked with Ms. Dahlkemper’s office to strengthen the bill, and while it never became law, efforts to promote healthy behavior were included in the health-care legislation President Obama signed into law.
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