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Imagine Ebola Killed Thousands of Americans Every Year

October 3, 2014

News of the first reported case of Ebola virus in the United States is an even more virulent strain of right-wing outrage. While GOP Senator and 2016 White House hopeful Rand Paul worried that President is doing too much to help contain Ebola in West Africa ("Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?"), conservative bloggers blasted Obama for refusing to shut down flight routes and the border with Mexico.
Imagine, then, the foaming at the mouth response of Republicans if a health crisis was already killing up to 17,000 Americans. Every year. Imagine further that the deaths were absolutely unnecessary and entirely preventable, with existing vaccines and treatments that could save each and every life. Ponder the fury if the government already had the funds in place to completely eradicate the scourge, but refused to spend them. The right-wing rage-o-sphere would be in the streets with pitchforks and bonfires.
Unless, of course, the killer health crisis in question was solely due to the Republicans' rejection of Medicaid expansion over 20 states they govern.

That's not hyperbole, but a grim reality. Due to what might be the greatest act of political spite in modern American history, Republicans will needlessly leave millions of people uninsured, many hospitals on the edge of financial ruin and thousands of Americans dead, mostly in the states the GOP itself controls.
Here's how the Republicans' killer math works.
Prior to the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, studies from the Urban Institute, Families USA and Harvard Medical School estimated the numbers of preventable deaths among America's 50 million uninsured at between 22,000 and 45,000 a year. But as 25 plus million Americans gain coverage over the next decade (according to the nonpartisan CBO), that unnecessary death toll would drop dramatically. Just not, it turns out, in the GOP-dominated states that refused to accept the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid to millions of their currently uninsured constituents.
That's the conclusion a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School recently published in Health Affairs. The authors of "Opting Out Of Medicaid Expansion: The Health And Financial Impacts" tallied up the coming body count in the Republican states that rejected the ACA's extension of Medicaid to millions of their residents:

Nationwide, 47,950,687 people were uninsured in 2012; the number of uninsured is expected to decrease by about 16 million after implementation of the ACA, leaving 32,202,633 uninsured. Nearly 8 million of these remaining uninsured would have gotten coverage had their state opted in. States opting in to Medicaid expansion will experience a decrease of 48.9 percent in their uninsured population versus an 18.1 percent decrease in opt-out states...
We estimate the number of deaths attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion in opt-out states at between 7,115 and 17,104. Medicaid expansion in opt-out states would have resulted in 712,037 fewer persons screening positive for depression and 240,700 fewer individuals suffering catastrophic medical expenditures. Medicaid expansion in these states would have resulted in 422,553 more diabetics receiving medication for their illness, 195,492 more mammograms among women age 50-64 years and 443,677 more pap smears among women age 21-64. Expansion would have resulted in an additional 658,888 women in need of mammograms gaining insurance, as well as 3.1 million women who should receive regular pap smears.

To put those findings in terms Republicans can understand, up to 3,000 of Rick Perry's Texans will needlessly die each year. Those dead will joined by up to 671 from Scott Walker's Wisconsin, 1,176 in Nathan Deal's Georgia, 2,221 in Rick Scott's Florida and 1,145 in Pat McGrory's North Carolina. It's no wonder Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich got biblical on Buckeye State Republicans to extend Medicaid coverage to 300,000 of their state's residents:

"When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he's going to ask you what you did for the poor. You'd better have a good answer."

Mercifully, it's not too late for Americans to immunize themselves. When they go to the polls in November, they can vote Democratic and kill the GOPer virus dead in its tracks.
For more background, see "GOP's Obamacare spite means death toll for red states."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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