March 01, 2010

The American South and Health Care

After the American Century

I recently looked at where the Republican Party is strongest. The former slave states stood out, particularly those that grow cotton. I then looked to see where opposition to national health insurance is strongest. The former slave states again were prominent, particularly those where support for George Wallace once was strong.

The inescapable conclusion seems to be that the Republicans, who began their existence as a party based up North, insisted on keeping the South in the union so that one day the scourge of health insurance might be fought off with the help of the South. The Republicans of 1860 clearly took the long view, and wanted to be sure that when the ultimate danger to American society appeared - in the form of universal health care - the solid South would obstinately demand stasis. You could drive down Main Street in any southern town, throw a Bible out the window, and have a 65% chance of hitting someone opposed to health care.

Southerners have faith that they can get along without insurance. About 25% of all Texans have no health insurance at all, and apparently these uninsured people are against it.  One test of health, admittedly general but quite noticable, is how long people live. It turns out that people live longer in the states that want federal health coverage. According to statistics compiled at Harvard, those living longest are in Hawaii (80 years) and Minnesota (78.8), followed by Utah, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Guess where people have the shortest life expectancy? The worst four places if you want to live a long time are Mississippi (73.6), Louisiana (74.2),  Alabama (74.4), and South Carolina (74.8). They apparently like the idea of an early death, as they are against mandatory health care.

In Massachusetts a national health bill has far more support, yet that state already has basic health care for all its citizens and its hospitals are among the best in the world. People in Massachusetts live to be 78.4, on average. So the real question is, why do so many people in Northern states like Massachustts want to subsidize health care for Southern states like Texas, Alabama and Mississippi? They apparently want to live 4 or 5 years less than people in the North anyway.