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08 October 2008

For Infants, Georgia Isn't A Good Place To Live

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports today that a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation puts Georgia near the bottom when it comes to newborns making it to their first birthday.

The state has a higher-than-average rate of infant mortality, defined as the number of children who die before their first birthday. The national report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released today, also found that Georgia infants born to the most-educated mothers have a much greater chance of living past their first birthday than infants with mothers who have fewer years of schooling.

It ranked Georgia 46th among states on the size of that gap in infant mortality based on a mother’s education.
[Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Georgia income disparity shows up in children’s health", October 8, 2008]

The article goes on to report that "nearly 15 percent of Georgia children age 17 or younger are in less-than-optimal health, as reported by their parents; and that 26 percent of Georgia children in poor families have health problems, compared to 5.7 percent of kids in high-income households."

In other words, in Georgia, if you have a job that provides health insurance to your children or if you make enough money to purchase health insurance for your children, then your child is less likely to have health problems. If you're a Georgian who makes a decent amount of money, your newborn is more likely to see their 1st birthday.

However, if you're a Georgian whose regular dinner meals consist of some 20 cent ramen noodles and saltine crackers, little Johnnie or little Susie may not make it to one. If you're a Georgian who is scraping just to get by; if you're a Georgian who has a job that doesn't even provide you with health insurance, let alone giving health insurance to your child, then your child is more likely to have health problems.

Here in Georgia, the Democratic Party has been on the forefront of expanding healthcare coverage to include all of the state's children. In the Peach State, it was a Democratic-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor that pushed through the popular PeachCare for Kids program; a comprehensive health care program that provides primary, preventive, specialist, dental care and vision care to uninsured children living in Georgia.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have repeatedly tried to cut PeachCare.

Just over a year ago, the Republican Speaker of the Georgia House, Glenn Richardson, said that PeachCare and healthcare is not a constitutional right.

Richardson made those comments during debate over a bill (House Bill 340) he authored that would have lowered the income threshold to be eligible for the PeachCare from 235 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent. Richardson's bill would have also included new premiums for optional dental and vision programs [Source: Macon Telegraph, "PeachCare argument divides Assembly", April 17, 2007].

Now I shudder to think what kind of numbers might have appeared in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study if Glenn Richardson and the Republicans had gotten their way and cut access to health insurance for Georgia's children.

To put it plainly, cutting kids' healthcare is unacceptable as is being near the bottom of the state-by-state infant mortality rankings.