The Southern Health Conundrum
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With the nation's Republican governors gathered in Austin this week for their annual meeting, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour offered his take on current events during an appearance on CBSnews.com's Washington Unplugged. He covered the usual talking points, the basic pitch being that Republican ideas are more in tune with the needs of the nation than the policies offered by Obama & Co. But I had to do a double take after he told Bob Schieffer that "the American people want us focused on jobs, not on health care reform..."
A lot of people obviously agree - and there are good arguments on both sides of the health care reform debate - but Barbour's timing was way off. Only one day earlier, a study funded by UnitedHealth found that Barbour's great state of Mississippi ranked dead last in its ranking of the nation's healthiest states. In fact, the state has finished in last place for the last nine years. When I called up his office seeking a comment, the staffer who answered the phone wasn't familiar with the study. He should be - it's a doozy.
When it comes to a state-by-state analysis of the nation's health, Mississippi is a mess but its neighbors aren't doing much better. The best grade among southern states went to Virginia, which ranked 21. The next highest finish among below the Mason-Dixon line was Florida, at 36. I wonder whether Barbour sees any irony in the fact that eight of the ten worst-ranked states are in the old confederacy, the region where opposition to "Obamacare" is strongest.
Here's how Jon Perr for noticing first that nine of the top 10 healthiest states supported Barack Obama for president during the 2008 elections. Meanwhile, 9 of the 10 of the states ranked with the worst health scores backed John McCain. Perr also noted that "four years earlier, the 15 unhealthiest states voted for George W. Bush for President."
Meanwhile, news leaks this evening say that the Congressional Budget Office has finished scoring the health care proposal sent to the U.S. Senate for debate. If the preliminary reports are accurate, the bill would reduce federal deficits by $127 billion over the next decade and $650 billion in the second decade. It also would leave 94 percent of eligible individuals with coverage. This was what the Obama administration wanted to hear as the cost estimate fell below its $900 billion ceiling. As Talking Point Memo noted, that would be a "good" number for the Democrats.
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