Obamacare: Not Just After Your Insurance, After Your Snacks Too

I think it is now safe to say that we have all seen how the ill-named Affordable Care Act is not going to make the average health insurance plan more affordable.

This monster of an act that was probably voted without having been read, holds provisions that are discovered everyday, such as the one that follows.

If you are among those occasionally heading to the vending machine, be prepared to pay more for your snack:

There may be a lot more counting of calories when people buy snacks from vending machines or order food in certain restaurants under rules currently being crafted as part of the final phase of the Affordable Care Act.

Once the regulations are in place, calorie information will have to be displayed on roughly 5 million vending machines in many companies and in restaurants with more than 20 locations. The hope is that the changes will help consumers make healthier choices, the Associated Press reported.

Does anyone really think that choosing a Twix or chips to snack on is the healthiest thing to do? And even so, why would you force a regulation on companies because a few people would? Here’s another case of State the Savior intervening to save Consumer the Ignorant.

If the government is supposedly concerned with the consequences of our actions on OUR health, it certainly isn’t concerned too much with the consequences of its regulations on businesses, consumers or the economy:

It won’t be a cheap change, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimating it will cost almost $26 million the first year and $24 million a year after that, the AP reported. And companies with vending machines will have to foot the bill. Businesses will be given a year to comply with the new rules, although the vending machine industry has already asked for a two-year deadline, according to the wire service.

The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more vending machines. Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, an industry group told the AP.

Will consumers keep on buying as many snacks as before? The regulation is supposed to have us make healthier choices. From what I have seen so far, most choices in vending machines aren’t really healthy. So, thanks to the regulation, seeing the calorie count for a Twix or a KitKat should make us change our minds. Really?

Several studies, including a recent one released last week, confirmed that when it comes to eating healthy, numbers don’t count for much. Knowing that a serving of medium fries contains 380 calories, in other words, isn’t enough to convince us to downsize to a 230 calorie small, or to skip the spuds altogether.

From the results of the study cited in the Time article:

Posting calorie benchmarks had no direct impact, nor did it moderate the impact of calorie labels on food purchases. The recommendation appeared to promote a slight increase in calorie intake, attributable to increased purchases of higher-calorie entrées.

Naturally, the cost of the regulation will be passed on to consumers though, which is understandable. It will also become increasingly difficult for those companies that make very little profits from the vending machines to keep their businesses open. Ah! But the ACA is a liberation, isn’t it?

Beyond the cost of the regulation, it is the constant and omnipresent intervention of the government in our lives, at every moment, that is increasingly bothering and disturbing. What if I decide to choose the Twix over the carrot sticks? Is it anyone’s business, but mine?

UPDATE: Of course, not just vending machines are concerned, all chain restaurants with more than 20 locations are.

Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act of 2010 (Affordable Care Act) established requirements for
nutrition labeling of standard menu items for restaurants and similar
retail food establishments with 20 or more locations doing business
under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu
items (hereinafter “chain retail food establishments”), and for
certain foods sold in vending machines operated by an operator that
owns or operates 20 or more vending machines (hereinafter “chain
vending machine operators”). Under the Affordable Care Act, retail
food establishments and vending machine operators not covered by
section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act may elect to become subject to
its requirements by registering biannually with FDA.

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