Walker's Death Toll: Study Calls Medicaid Refusal a Killer

Governor Scott Walker’s decision to deny federal health care funds for more than 150,000 low-income Wisconsinites will result in up to 671 deaths that could otherwise be prevented, a study released Thursday found.

Wisconsin is one of 25 states where Republicans governors have declined billions of dollars offered by the Obama Administration to expand Medicaid programs that cover low-income and jobless people. A study out this week by researchers at Harvard University and the City University of New York (CUNY) broke down the numbers to discover exactly how many Americans these governors’ decisions will impact.

The figures produced by their research are stunning. The data concludes that Republican governors are denying health care to more than 7 million Americans, and somewhere between 7,115 to 17,104 can be expected to die because of this.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to opt out of Medicaid expansion will have adverse health and financial consequences,” the study’s authors wrote. “...[We] predict that many low-income women will forego recommended breast and cervical cancer screening; diabetics will forego medications, and all low-income adults will face a greater likelihood of depression, catastrophic medical expenses, and death. Disparities in access to care based on state of residence will increase. Because the federal government will pay 100 percent of increased costs associated with Medicaid expansion for the first three years (and 90 percent thereafter), opt-out states are also turning down billions of dollars of potential revenue, which might strengthen their local economy."

Walker’s refusal to accept the money means the Wisconsin health system will miss out on $1.8 billion by 2022, according to a study published last year by The Commonwealth Fund. Those losses are not delayed, either: PolitiFact Wisconsin found last June that Walker’s decision will cost Wisconsin over $119 million between 2013 and 2015 alone, despite his Administration’s claims to the contrary.

However, the human toll of refusing health care to so many people is even more telling than the money Walker is wasting. The Harvard/CUNY study estimates that 152,399 Wisconsinites will go without care because of Walker’s political calculation. It also predicts between 139 and 671 deaths due to the governor’s refusal to accept health care funds from the Obama Administration.

The largest state forgoing Medicaid funds is Texas, where Governor Rick Perry is refusing health care to an astonishing 2,013,025 people; between 1,840 and 3,035 are expected to die. The second-largest state resisting the Affordable Care Act is Florida, where Governor Rick Scott is declining health care on behalf of 1,266,471 of his lower-income citizens; between 1,158 and 2,221 are expected to die.

There's something to be said for party unity -- a trait sorely lacking in the GOP these days -- but it's hard to imagine why Republican governors like Walker would place their own political ambitions ahead of the needs of their states... Especially now that we know their cold political calculations aren't just wasting our money, they're literally killing us.
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Photo: "A doctor with a migraine headache," via Shutterstock.