House Speaker Paul Ryan talks about the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. | AP file photo

Steinberg: Terror or no health care will kill you just as dead

SHARE Steinberg: Terror or no health care will kill you just as dead
SHARE Steinberg: Terror or no health care will kill you just as dead

Follow @neilsteinbergMarch 6. Two weeks ago. Does the date stand out in your mind? It should.

On that day President Donald Trump signed his second travel ban, denying visas to residents of six predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days and barring all refugees for four months.

The order was called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The administration argued for its necessity using words related to protection: security, safety, risk. “We cannot risk the prospect of malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives,” said Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.

Also on that day — the same day — Republicans offered up their plan to dismember Obamacare.

No one spoke of protection or risk. Instead, Obamacare was being dismantled in the name of . . . what’s that word Paul Ryan kept using? Right, “access.” If the government stopped blazing a route to insurance, Americans would be free to wander into the marketplace and buy whatever insurance they like, the sky’s the limit, provided they can pay for it — which many can’t.

So one measure, the travel ban, is being taken to protect American lives. The other, to give them access to options.

But what if we took those two values and swapped them? Apply concern for access to the travel ban, and security to Obamacare. What would that teach us?


Follow @neilsteinbergIf we approach our immigration policy by stressing the importance of access, we’d recognize that we’re a country of immigrants, that people should have a chance to come here and live here and prove themselves. That while, yes, people from these particular countries could theoretically cause trouble, that potential isn’t limited to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Terror can come from anywhere.

And if we prize safety of American lives while examining Obamacare? The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will lose their health insurance by 2026. Will not having health insurance make them less safe? Will it endanger their lives?

Of course it will. Not having health insurance leads to people who are less healthy. It makes their lives shorter. How much shorter?

There are lots of numbers to chose from, but I settled on figures from a conservative analysis by a Republican academic arguing that not having insurance is an acceptable lifestyle risk, like being overweight or smoking.

“The best evidence shows that the average morbidity benefit, or reduction of the incidence or severity of disease, associated with gaining health insurance coverage for one year would equal 3.7 to 6.8 days of healthy life,” writes Christopher Conover, a research scholar at Duke University’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research, in “How Risky is It To Be Uninsured?”

So call it five healthy days added to life for every year of possessing health insurance, which means that not having health insurance takes away those five days.

Five days. Less than a week. That doesn’t sound like too much. But then think about the huge number of people we’re talking about. If 24 million Americans lost their health insurance and with it five days of living apiece, that’s 120 million days of life lost a year.

Divide 120 million days by 365 days in a year and you get 328,767 years of American life lost, every year, so that Congressional Republicans can express their deathless hatred of Barack Obama and, of course, rich folks can get tax breaks. Quite a lot, really.

On the same day the president argues that residents of certain countries — whose citizens have not cost one day of American life due to an act of terror on U.S. soil — deserve special obstruction, the Republicans hatch a plan that will make millions of Americans sicker, less secure, more anxious and die earlier. An American killed by a terrorist and an American killed because nobody diagnosed his cancer are equally dead.

The good news is that the courts are blocking the second travel ban the way they blocked the first. And Congressional Republicans, though covering their ears and clamping their eyes, are still hearing the muted cries of constituents who woke up after March 6 to the real-world implications of the wound they inflicted on themselves on Nov. 8.

Tweets by @neilsteinberg

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