One hundred and fifty years ago, North Carolina defied a U.S. President from Illinois when it became the final state to secede from the Union, resulting in more deaths for its citizens than any other Confederate state.
Fast forward to today. The Tarheel State is defying another inspirational President from Illinois who is striving to create a more perfect health care union.
The bill passed this week by North Carolina’s lower house would exempt North Carolinans from the individual mandate to buy health insurance, a measure which is at the heart of health insurance reforms Congress passed last year.
North Carolina needs the protections afforded in health care reform more than most other states. In the UnitedHealth Foundation’s rankings of the healthiest states to live in, North Carolina ranks a dismal 35th. Its Outcomes rank is 39, meaning there are only 11 states where you have a worse chance of a bad medical outcome.
In fact, according to America’s Health Rankings, the very worst states to live in – as far as health care goes – lie below the Mason-Dixon line. Dead last is Mississippi, with Louisiana one rung up at 49th. Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas are also mired in the 40s. Oklahoma – which, during the Confederacy was one of its territories – is ranked 46th.
The health care crisis is a national problem, one which last year’s reform legislation was designed to alleviate. Nationwide, the number of uninsured is growing. The number of uninsured leapt from 13.4 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2010. Many of those people will get care, but often will delay treatment until their conditions become serious, life-threatening and more expensive.
Who pays the bill? Put simply, the costs of the uninsured are passed on – in the form of higher insurance rates – to those who have insurance, as hospitals and doctors inflate their charges to cover the non-paying customers they must treat.
The individual mandate is about personal responsibility, ensuring that others don’t take unfair advantage of those who provide for themselves.
The citizens of those states who have the worst health care are the ones who will benefit the most from national health care reform, including the individual mandate.
In May of 1861, North Carolina chose the losing side in the War Between the States, which caused its citizens much sacrifice. Sadly, we see history repeating itself as the North Carolina house makes another bad bet.