The Republican healthcare plan would cause more American deaths than terrorism

Of all the threats to American lives, few frighten the country more than terrorism. Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of people elsewhere in the world have lost their lives to terrorism over the past two decades. ISIS has killed upwards of 50,000 people over the course of their existence, one or two hundred of whom were American, and al Qaeda has killed over 4,000, most of whom were American. The fight against these groups has consumed much of the U.S. government since 9/11, and it continues to be a top worry of the American people.

But if it’s the loss of American life we’re afraid of, we may need to change our priorities. The Republican Party really put things in perspective for all of us on Thursday, when they passed the American Health Care Act through the House of Representatives. It is a remarkable plan to deny millions of Americans healthcare. The Congressional Budget Office said the original plan would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2026, and 14 million would lose it just in 2018. While the CBO hasn’t had time to score the mildly revised plan, there’s little in it that is likely to reverse those numbers.

As you might imagine, not having health insurance means not having good healthcare. It doesn’t just mean higher bills or even bankruptcy—it means people will not get treated for their problems. And that means people are more likely to die from illness and injury. As it turns out, there is research that confirms this. Studies from the National Institutes of Health, New England Journal of Medicine, and Annals of Internal Medicine, for instance, all found that lack of health insurance significantly increased the likelihood of death. The level of mortality rate increase varied across the studies, but applying the most conservative of the estimates to the the number of people slated to lose health insurance under the AHCA tells us that roughly 24,000 more Americans will die each year. That calculation is based on 20 million people losing insurance, so we would be looking at about 17,000 additional deaths per year starting in 2018/19, once 14 million people lose insurance, and about 29,000 by 2026, when 24 million have lost it.

I must say, part of my job entails researching ways to beat violent extremism, and it feels a bit pointless in comparison. Trying to keep the Senate from passing the AHCA in its current form might be a more worthwhile endeavor if the goal is to save lives.

It’s hard to think of what bill the House could have passed that would kill more Americans than this. A declaration of war probably wouldn’t have done it. The AHCA will lead to more American deaths per year than any war since WWII. Even Vietnam, seen in retrospect as such a disastrous conflict, had a peak of 16,899 American deaths in one year. That’s akin to year one of the AHCA.

Why would Bruce Poliquin vote for this bill? Why would 216 of his colleagues vote for this bill? Why would anyone vote for this bill?

Phoenix McLaughlin

About Phoenix McLaughlin

Phoenix McLaughlin works at the National Endowment for Democracy helping to foster political development in Asia. Phoenix lives in Washington, D.C. now, but was born and raised in Norway, Maine. In between, he has studied and/or worked in Colorado, Nepal, India, France, Ethiopia, and Augusta. All opinions expressed on this blog are solely his own and do not represent his current or former employers.