Haley the Baby-Killer?

Sully links to this diatribe about how Haley Barbour’s budget cuts to Medicaid are killing babies. It’s possible they are on to something. But it sounds fishy to me.

  • The biggest reason I doubt this analysis is that correlation is not causation, especially when the correlation is two data points. We have one (1) year’s worth of data pointing to a rise in infant mortality. The article sights numerous reasons infant mortality rates have jumped in a number of states. And is there a reason infant deaths might have jumped in 2005 for Mississippi other than Medicaid budget cuts? Perhaps. A massive natural disaster and influx of poor homeless people from one of the worst cities in America might, just might, bump up mortality rates. Let’s see what happens when Louisiana comes out with their 2005 numbers. And what happened in 2006.
  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Insurance does not equal healthcare. Just because someone doesn’t have Medicaid does not mean they are not getting health care. Their babies are not being born in back alleys and crack houses. If they go to a hospital, they will be admitted, they will get adequate care. Moreover, all poor mothers and babies are eligble for WIC, last time I checked.
  • I’m sorry, but this could be a fluke, despite the 95% confidence interval. It still could be. We’ll have to see when the 2006 numbers come in. But the number of infant deaths is thankfully so small (481) than a big jump might not mean anything (the broader jump throughout the South is more alarming).
  • I think it’s interesting that the authors rant and rave about Medicaid cuts. Yet what do they site as a tremendous success story? The Cary Christian Center . . . a private interest. In fact, precisely the sort of private interest that might arise in a healthier tax environment. Precisely the sort of private interest that might be more common if Medicaid weren’t expanding so rapidly.
  • What these poor people need is not more government handouts. What they need is jobs. Cutting taxes might help create jobs, especially in a state that is 51st in unemployment.
  • That all having been said, I do agree that Medicaid should provide coverage of poor babies — coverage that can be, and often is, granted retroactively. But Barbour’s idea was right, even it the execution, no pun intended, was bad. Medicaid is growing out of control and as it grows, more and more Americans are being booted out of good insurance plans into the Medicaid Gulag. I worked in medicine for 13 years. Medicaid is an utter disaster. We would be far better off just telling doctors to give out their care for free than put poor people and overworked physicians through the rigmarole that pays a pittance for their services.
  • All that having been said, I must admit that it is the politics that makes by BS meter twitter. The NYT specifically, and most lefties generally, have been predicting a massive disaster from welfare cuts for years. Of course, I’m not sure how any disaster can be worse than the destruction visited on the African-American family by the Great Society welfare state. But this is the Left’s first chance, after a decade of welfare reform to say, “See! See! We told you welfare cuts would kill babies!”.

    As I said, maybe they’re right. Maybe Barbour’s budget cuts are killing babies. But I think we need more than one year of data — and a disastrous year at that — before we start pronouncing someone a black baby killer. No?


    Well, he is a Republican I guess.