State officials are puzzled by Alabama’s high rate of suicides, they said last week.
They also are puzzled by the high rate of infant mortality, the high rate of diabetes and the high rate of cardiovascular disease.
It’s not a very difficult puzzle.
Alabama has 662,000 uninsured residents, 16 percent of the nonelderly population. The state — which has one of the nations highest poverty rates — has the least comprehensive Medicaid program federal law allows. Gov. Robert Bentley has announced he will decline federally funded efforts to expand Medicaid. The expansion would bring with it improved treatment of mental illness, likely reducing suicides; better pre-natal care, likely reducing infant mortality; and better access to preventive care, likely containing the state’s diabetes epidemic and reducing cardiovascular deaths.
The puzzle of Alabama’s poor health is a simple one. Immersed in anti-federal politics and determined not to annoy wealthy power brokers by imposing tax reform, state officials are merely unwilling to put the pieces together.