The intellectual elite became a prime target after Trump’s unexpected presidential win on November 8th. Clinton spent the last few unprecedentedly heated months of the campaign choosing to forgo stops in “flyover country,” opting instead for urban areas where the Democratic party runs deep, while Trump catered to his main demographic of lower income, blue collar Americans in rural areas. Offended by this omission, and armed with the vindication of nominating a man who triumphs some of their basest beliefs, the rhetoric of the win in the media turned to chastising the arrogant shmucks who have the audacity to live in cities and read books from time to time. Fortunately, the liberal elite will carry on business as usual, because unlike our current President, our days aren’t derailed into tweet storms from imagined slights and vendettas. No, we will read, and write, and study and discover, and continue to demolish the vitriol of ignorance with fact. Much like this 2009 Harvard study completely dismantles the recent comments of Representative Raul R. Labrador, when he said “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.”
Before we get into the study, let’s unpack that a bit. On the surface, it’s irresponsible for a United States Congressman to speak in unproven vagaries about what does and doesn’t kill citizens. To say that any one thing has never killed anyone is both impossible, and simply put, highly unlikely. People die from hot water and rats, lightning and their scarves getting caught in things. So to say that no one has ever died from not having access to healthcare is just patently false.
It’s also sinister though. Because what could be more lifesaving than healthcare. If someone needs healthcare, to the point where holistic alternatives and scrounging up enough cash aren’t options, they’re clearly in a life threatening scenario. Be it something as common as asthma, or less common like a degenerative disease, or simply a trauma from an accident—if you need to go to the fucking doctor, you need to go to the fucking doctor. It’s not an option, like I think I’ll have an ice cream today. It’s” “Oh shit, I’m wheezing, bleeding, dying, and I need someone who went to school for a really long time to fix it.” (Doctors, I might add, are definitely a part of the Trump-supporter abhorred intellectual elite, so put your diabetes in that pipe and smoke it).
Most importantly, the statement is wholly dismissive of the array of ways in which people can not have access to healthcare, and by way of that, Labrador’s statement was dismissive of the law his party just mercilessly pushed through the House.
The American Healthcare Act, which is now being deliberated by the Senate, will efficiently restore what we had before the Affordable Care Act, but worse. It would be like if for five years we had robots that did groovy things for us, like clean our houses and make dinner, for free. But then one day, government decides the robots are bad and takes them away, and their replacement plan is giving all of the rich people iPhones for cheap, and charging the poor people a lot of money for Nokia brick phones. Which is to say the law will gut Medicaid and allow insurance companies to charge exorbitant premiums to sick and poor people, and people with any kind of preexisting condition. See the last What The Health for a full run down on the AHCA.
Labrador’s comments were in response to a town-hall attendee in Idaho who stated, “You are mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying.” An exasperated Labrador responded to the woman with, “That line is so indefensible,” and then launched into his now infamous quote. Despite being drowned out by boos at the event, and thoroughly bashed online, Labrador still needs to steep in his ineptitude by taking a look at the stark evidence contradicting his bold declaration. The American Journal of Public Health, published on September 17, 2009, that the number of people dying from not having insurance since the Institute of Medicine’s 2002 study on the same topic, had doubled to nearly 45,000. The study was conducted at Harvard, who also published the findings,
“The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health,” said lead author Andrew Wilper, M.D., who currently teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease—but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”
The study was based off of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a government arm that doesn’t deal in alternative facts. The study took into account demographic, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, ultimately determining that not having health insurance was causing 44,789 deaths annually. This was almost eight years ago, so considering that the market for insurance premiums went up drastically during that time until the housing market crash economically wounded the country, to have the ACA swoop in and insure 20 million people who had never had insurance before, you can only assume that when the estimated 24 million lose coverage by 2026 as a result of the AHCA, that 44,789 will be a much more disturbing number.
I feel like this column ends with the same message frequently, and that’s because it will always be true and for some reason congress isn’t listening, taking health care away from people is murder. In 2009 it was a statistic based on free markets and demographics, but in the coming future it will be murder. Call your representatives.
Un Bolshakov, CC-BY
Chloe Stillwell is a Nashville-based columnist focusing on politics, culture and feminism.