The South lags behind on health status | Arkansas Blog

Monday, February 22, 2016

The South lags behind on health status

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 1:03 PM

click to enlarge south_health.png

Good article in the Washington Journal last week from the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Atlman on the relatively poor health status in Southern states — Altman notes that for the most part this hasn't come up as an issue in the presidential primary races, even as the battles move south: 

Overall, one in five people are in fair or poor health in the South, a higher percentage than any other region in the U.S., the Kaiser Family Foundation has found. Virtually all southern states rank among those with the highest rates of adult diabetes and most of the states with the highest obesity rates are in the South. Infant mortality is higher in the South than any other U.S. region. Cancer death rates are a little lower in the South than in the Midwest, but they are much higher than those in the West and the Northeast. South Carolina has a higher rate of cancer-related deaths than the southern states overall or the U.S. nationally.

When health care came up in the GOP debates in South Carolina, however, there was mostly a shouting match to see who could hate Obamacare the most. 

One big problem in the South — access to health care coverage: 

Fewer people have health coverage in the South: 18% of the adult non-elderly population is uninsured in the South since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, compared with 12% in the rest of the country. The highest uninsured rates are generally in the 10 southern states that have not opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA. In South Carolina, 123,000 residents fall into a coverage gap: They are poor adults who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for premium tax credits, which begin at 100% of the federal poverty level.

Arkansas, of course, was one of the few states in the South to expand Medicaid, moving forward with the bipartisan private option and cutting its uninsured rate by more than half (Kentucky also expanded coverage, and Louisiana recently moved forward with Medicaid expansion as well). A rump group of Tea Party Republicans in the Arkansas legislature is now aiming to reverse that progress and aim for a coverage gap even larger than South Carolina's.  

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