In Deep South Where GOP Rejected Obamacare, Tens of Thousands Die Unnecessarily Every Year
This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.
The Center for Disease Control house found that 900,000 people a year die of five leading causes every year in the US, and that 20% to 40% of these deaths are preventable (i.e. 180,000 to 360,000 needn’t die). The five are heart disease, cancer, lung disease, stroke and unintentional injury. Smoking cigarettes contributes to several of them.
What is striking is that the preventable diseases occur at a much higher rate in the Deep South than in the rest of the country, especially in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. AJC.com notes that only 2% of Oregon’s heart attacks are considered to be “preventable” by the CDC, but 58 percent of Mississippi’s are.
Heart attacks nationally h/t Esri
One difference is health policy. Many states put high taxes on cigarettes, which discourages young people from taking up smoking. The deep South typically has much lower cigarette taxes.
The CDC says that prevention of these five causes of death requires: “risk factor reduction, screening, early intervention, and successful treatment of the disease or injury.”
In other words, health insurance and access to physicians are key to prevention. Low and behold, the states where the population most needs affordable health care insurance are the very ones where the Republican Party is dominant and where governors have rejected expansion of medicaid for Obamacare:
The Republican Party has many good people in it, and in some states it is pursuing better policies (Utah is fairly healthy, e.g.). But the Tea Party wing of the party is actually killing people by denying them access to affordable health insurance. We now have an idea of how many people its policies are killing.
In Alabama, it is roughly 9,000 people a year that are dying in part because of lack of screening, intervention and treatment, i.e. because they are uninsured. (There are 660,000 uninsured Alabamans). Low cigarette taxes and lack of investment in ensuring citizens get enough exercise are further contributors. If we posit that, in comparison to northern Democratic states, 2/3s of these preventable deaths are being caused by GOP policies, that is 6,000 people a year that the Tea Party is polishing off in Alabama. (It is no accident that when Michelle Obama began promoting more exercise among children, Fox Cable News and the Tea Party attacked her.)
That is, by its policies, the Tea Party is contributing to the death of more Americans every year than al-Qaeda is polishing off in Syria or Iraq.
If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.
Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.