As Senate health care debate begins, think of south Georgia and breast cancer

View Caption Hide Caption
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to his office on Capitol Hill on Thursday. This morning Senate GOP lawmakers are expected to get the first look at the health care bill that will replace the Affordable Care Act. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A few of  details of the top-secret Senate Republican plan for America’s health care have begun to leak out. From the Associated Press:

Senate Republicans would cut Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and erase a raft of tax increases as part of their long-awaited plan to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional aides and lobbyists say….

 

In a departure from the version the House approved last month, which President Donald Trump privately called “mean,” the Senate plan would drop the House’s waivers allowing states to let insurers boost premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions.

 

It would also largely retain the subsidies Obama provided to help millions buy insurance, which are pegged mostly to people’s incomes and the premiums they pay.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants a vote before the Fourth of July recess. But as you follow this issue, keep in mind three things: South Georgia, economic development, and self-worth.

To explain: One of the keys to understanding Donald Trump’s victory last year was the nothing-left-to-lose outlook among older white, high-school educated voters who had seen their prospects vanish over the last two decades.

Two researchers spotted the phenomenon a year before Trump’s election. From a previous post:

A new Princeton University study shows mortality rates among Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and most age groups in healthy decline.

 

Only one group is a proven exception, with deaths by suicide, alcohol and drug poisoning, and liver disease increasing at a rate unseen in any other wealthy nation: Middle-aged white Americans.

 

Not just any middle-aged white Americans. This trend is driven by those whose educations that went no further than a high school diploma. We’re talking death by blue collar.

 

They are dying, say the authors, in numbers comparable to lives lost during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. “Those currently in midlife may be a ‘lost generation’ whose future is less bright than those who preceded them,” the study concludes.

The opioid addiction is one newer symptom of these “deaths by despair.” But another has been identified as a possibility: Untreated breast cancer.

Georgia State University researchers have recently produced two studies on the topic, according to our AJC colleague Ariel Hart.

One study indicates that south Georgia is the locale for one of four “hot spots” in the United States for inflammatory breast cancer, a form of the disease that is not picked up by mammograms. Late diagnoses means the disease is often fatal.

African-American women appear to be the primary victims – for privacy reasons, researchers are withholding the exact location of the Georgia hot spot. Poverty is a primary driver.

But another GSU paper, authored by a team led by Lee Mobley, notes that white women who live in segregated rural communities – but not in poverty — are also at risk. One theory why:

[A] person’s behavior is governed by how one perceives their standing relative to others. In recent decades, Whites have gained less relative to their parents while minorities have gained more, which has eroded the relative position of Whites, and may explain why Whites, who actually have more in the U.S. than minority groups may feel that they are losing ground/have less.

 

This sense of pessimism can lead to despair and a sense of failure, which can manifest in unhealthy behaviors and a fatalistic attitude.

So remember: South Georgia, economic development, and self-worth. It’s all tied together.

***

Democrats are forming a circular firing squad in the aftermath of Jon Ossoff’s Tuesday defeat, and they’re training their sights on the same person Republicans used as a battering ram the Sixth District fight. Consider the headlines.

— There was this from Daily Beast: “Wake up, Democrats. Ossoff didn’t lose the election – Pelosi did.”

— And this from NPR: Democrats play blame game with Pelosi after House election

— Breitbart entered the fray with glee: Cher Turns on Nancy Pelosi After Ossoff Loss

— The New York Times offers more, with perhaps the most damning quote of the day:

A small group of Democrats who have been critical of Ms. Pelosi in the past again pressed her to step down on Wednesday. And in a private meeting of Democratic lawmakers, Representative Tony Cárdenas of California, Ms. Pelosi’s home state, suggested the party should have a more open conversation about her effect on its political fortunes.….

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who tried to unseat Ms. Pelosi as House minority leader late last fall, said she remained a political millstone for Democrats. But Mr. Ryan said the Democratic brand had also become “toxic” in much of the country because voters saw Democrats as “not being able to connect with the issues they care about.”

“Our brand is worse than Trump,” he said.

Our humble view: Pelosi took a toll on Ossoff, as reflected in interviews with conservative voters across the district. A quick look at our inbox attests to that. One email from a voter this morning asserts, “Georgians don’t want Californians deciding who is going to represent them.”

But for a better idea why Ossoff fell flat – and gave Handel an opening to unite Republicans – consider this take we posted late Wednesday. A taste:

It wasn’t that Jon Ossoff wasn’t a resident of the Sixth District — a fact pointed out by Handel time and again.

 

No, it was that Ossoff was too much a part of the Sixth, and feared offending Mom and Dad’s old Republican neighbors with attacks that tied his opponent to current events in and current concerns about Washington.

Alan Abramowitz, the Emory University political scientist, was thinking along the same lines with his op-ed piece for the New York Daily News:

[T]here was a major problem with Ossoff’s strategy: Karen Handel was not Donald Trump, and the Ossoff campaign failed to effectively tie Handel to Trump. Polls in the district found that Trump was unpopular, as was the GOP’s health-care plan, which had been crafted largely by Tom Price and was strongly supported by Handel.

 

But the Ossoff campaign did not strongly go after Handel for her support of either Trump or the American Health Care Act. Instead, negative ads run by Ossoff and outside groups focused on attacking Handel as a self-dealing career politicians and on her role in cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood during her brief tenure as an executive at the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

***

Former state lawmaker Dee Dawkins-Haigler turned some heads with this Facebook post:

We’ve reached out for more information, but the post suggests that Georgia’s Democratic race for governor could get rather volatile.


View Comments 1