The Fayetteville Observer gets right to the heart of the matter this morning in an editorial entitled “Living in NC is bad for our health.” As the essay points out, North Carolinians are near the bottom in national health rankings because, simply put, we don’t do enough or invest enough to address the issue.
The editorial is based on a new study by a group named WalletHub, that specializes in comparing quality of life in different parts of the U.S. The new study found that North Carolina was ranked fifth from the bottom in the nation and was grouped with most other southern states in the lower rankings. This is from the editorial:
“North Carolina ranked 47th. It was 50th in cost, 44th in access and 36th in outcomes. We’re relieved, at least, that in outcomes, the most critical of the measures, we weren’t all the way at the bottom of the barrel. The other states ranking worse than North Carolina were Arkansas, Alaska and Mississippi….
What are the forces creating the best and the worst? It’s not necessarily politics, although there are more blue states at the top and more red ones at the bottom. Rather, it appears more a case of wealthier states and those willing to spend more on health care at the top, and poor states — and those, like North Carolina, bent on slashing taxes at any cost — that are on the bottom.
And one more thing: The states that can claim excellence have mostly embraced the Affordable Care Act and helped the insurance exchanges succeed. Many also have expanded Medicaid to bring coverage to more of their working poor. Those of us at the bottom saw our politicians wage an ideological jihad against Obamacare, trying to make the exchanges fail and refusing to expand Medicaid, even though they could have done it at little to no cost.
For North Carolina, the numbers show the results of that political war to make Obamacare fail. But they show more than that. They are indicative of another, older problem: Our failure to train enough doctors who are willing to set up practices in our more impoverished rural areas. The quality of health care is very good for those who live an easy ride from the Triangle and Charlotte, and nearly as good in our other metro areas. It’s in our rural areas that we see smaller hospitals on the brink of financial collapse and shortages of doctors, especially specialists….
But a big part of the job belongs to our lawmakers, who are responsible for health-care policy, spending and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or whatever comes after it. Unless we are full participants, we still will rank among the states that fail to provide the health care that residents want, need and deserve.”