Does Mississippi covet being at the bottom of the national health heap? You would think as much, given how we never stray too far from it.
In fact, the most recent United Health Foundation ranking has Mississippi moving up a notch overall – over its “rival” for last place, Louisiana. But no worries, there’s still plenty of unrivaled bad news. Mississippi ranks dead last when it comes to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and infant mortality, as well as the overall health of seniors, women and children, and has, not surprisingly, shown no progress in driving down obesity rates or raising levels of physical activity.
Popular “explanations” for our continuously lousy health include poverty, a culture of high-carb, high-salt, high-fat eating, the state’s rural nature (you can’t walk most places) and the insufferable heat (you don’t want to walk anywhere). But a far better explanation, I think, is lousy political leadership.
Like every other state in the nation, Mississippi had the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, thereby expanding the reach of health services, notably those of a preventative nature. If it had done so, the state would almost certainly have moved up dramatically in national health rankings.
Oh, no! said Gov. Bryant and the Republican leadership, despite strong vocal encouragement of the entire professional health community, we can’t do that! Medicaid is already too much of a financial burden on the state (we’re poor, you know), and you can’t trust the federal government’s promise to cover 90% of the cost of coverage expansion. Nor can you believe all those economists who say that expansion will generate far more money for the state than the cost of its match. That’s all a bunch of liberal nonsense.
What say we just hang a banner across the state capitol building? “Dead last in health – and proud of it!”