Health Insurance Companies Invest in Fast Food Chains

Maybe not the best use of their money?

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Outrage of the day: Harvard researchers have discovered that some of the biggest health insurers have invested billions in fast food companies. CBS is reporting a study from the American Journal of Public Health, which found that nearly $2 billion has been invested by insurers such as Prudential Financial, Northwest Mutual and Massachusetts Mutual--who are among the life, health and disability insurers named in the article--in fast food companies such as McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Burger King and Yum! Brands. According to CBS News:

The authors write that the recent passage of health care reform will likely expand the reach of the insurance industry, arguing that if insurers are to play a greater role in healthcare then they should be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility.

 "There’s a ton of irony in it," said Boyd, a psychiatry professor. "In order to generate profits, they will invest in any area they need to … to make money, even if what they invest in, in this case fast food, is an industry that is known to cause people to get sick and to die early."

I recently attended a briefing on childhood obesity at Children’s National Medical Center and listened to an expert explain the metabolic weight obesity places on every cell in the body. When someone is obese, every one of his or her organs is affected, and it reduces life expectancy dramatically. The fact that insurance companies are investing in fast food joints confirms the negative image many Americans have about the insurance industry. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Who was the marketing genius who came up with this one?”

If they were smart, they’d switch those fast food investments over to companies researching a cure for diabetes, or promoting organic and sustainable food, or building affordable sports equipment for kids in underserved neighborhoods. Wouldn’t you think they’d be investing in ways to have fewer claims in the long run? Don’t life insurance companies want fewer payouts because everyone is living longer and paying premiums?

What’s next--they’ve invested in Big Tobacco too?