The Associated Press reports that several Democratic Senators might vote against any proposed healthcare measure that contains a public plan. The article quotes Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who says that she is "not for a government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plan, and never will be."
I respect ideological independence, and I acknowledge and am comfortable with the fact that many Democrats are moderates. Landrieu's position, however, does not reflect intellectual consistency or honesty.
Louisiana: Abundance of Poverty, Scarcity of Health Care
Among the 50 states, Louisiana has the second highest percentage of people living in poverty. Landrieu's position on government-sponsored healthcare does not respond to the needs of poor individuals who live in her state.
Because of the high rate of poverty in Louisiana, many residents of the state already receive healthcare through a "government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plan" -- which Landrieu supposedly opposes. Despite this taxpayer-sponsored coverage, many of the state's residents remain uninsured and unhealthy.
Louisiana Ranks as Nation's Least Healthy State
According to the 2008 America's Health Rankings survey -- an annual report issued by the United Health Foundation -- Louisiana ranks as the nation's least healthy state. The report considers many individual and community statistics.
As for specific health categories, Louisiana ranks 49 in infant mortality, cancer deaths, and premature deaths; 48 in preventable hospitalizations; 47 in prevalence of obesity; 45 in cardiovascular deaths; and 41 in smoking
27% of Louisianan Residents Enrolled in Medicaid
According to the most recent data reported by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH), a whopping 27% of state residents are enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid is a government-run, national, taxpayer-sponsored health plan for indigent people.
21% of Louisiana Adults Are Uninsured
According to the most recent data reported by the LDHH, 21% of Louisiana's non-elderly adults lack health insurance. This exceeds the national rate of 16%.
The high cost of insurance precludes most of the state's uninsured individuals from purchasing coverage. Landrieu's opposition to a public plan is shocking in light of this group's unmet medical needs.
Per Patient Medicare Expenditure Highest in Louisiana
Although Landrieu despises government-run healthcare, per patient Medicare expenditures in Louisiana rank higher than in any other state. Unfortunately, the state also has the lowest quality outcomes for Medicare patients.
Children's Health Insurance Rate Has Increased -- Due to Government-Run Health Insurance
Only one bright spot appears in Louisiana's health statistics. The percentage of uninsured children has fallen dramatically over the last decade. The rate has decreased for one reason alone: the federal government created and expanded participation in SCHIP -- the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
A 10-year analysis of Louisiana's uninsured population by the LDHH makes the following conclusion: "The child uninsured rate decreased 12.9 percentage points from 1998 to 2007. This large reduction in the rate of uninsured children is attributable to the introduction of [Louisiana's SCHIP plan] and its rapid expansion." SCHIP -- which is undeniably a government-run, taxpayer sponsored health plan -- has provided necessary medical services to tens of thousands of children in the State of Louisiana.
It is also worth noting that, while Landrieu was not a Senator in 1997 when Congress enacted SCHIP, when the program came up for reauthorization in 2007, she voted in favor of the legislation. Bush vetoed this measure and a second one that Congress passed. In 2009, however, Congress again passed legislation to extend and expand SCHIP. Landrieu voted for that measure, which Obama signed into law.
What Is Going On With Landrieu?
Landrieu is clearly playing politics. She is taking a position that is ultimately unhelpful for many people in her state because Louisiana conservatives (many of whom apparently vote against interest) could cause her to lose her job if she votes for a public plan. The "reading" public, however, should not allow Landrieu to place her career above the indigent residents of her state without exposing the terms of her gamble. Consider this as notice.