A 27-Year-Old Takes on the World of Elders – Part 2
Elders and Loneliness

Economic Inequality – a Life and Death Proposition

While we were considering youth and age over the past couple of days at this blog, the Washington Post published a remarkable story about the difference economic inequality makes in the quality of life and longevity experienced by people at either end of the scale.

To show how this plays out in real life, reporter Michael A. Fletcher has pulled together a variety of statistics for two adjacent Florida counties – prosperous St. Johns, and Putnam where more than 20 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

"Women [in St. Johns County] can expect to live to be nearly 83, four years longer than they did just two decades earlier...”, writes Mr. Fletcher. “Male life expectancy is more than 78 years, six years longer than two decades ago.

"[In Putnam County], incomes and housing values are about half what they are in St. Johns. And life expectancy in Putnam has barely budged since 1989, rising less than a year for women to just over 78.

"Meanwhile, it has crept up by a year and a half for men, who can expect to live to be just over 71, seven years less than the men living a few miles away in St. Johns."

In some parts of the U.S., longevity is actually moving in reverse, reports Fletcher.

“A study published last week in the journal Health Affairs,” he writes, “said that in almost half of the nation’s counties, women younger than 75 are dying at rates higher than before. The counties where women’s life expectancy is declining typically are in the rural South and West, the report said.

“Putnam County shares many of those characteristics. Forests, picturesque lakes and the beautiful St. Johns River, the longest in Florida, dot the area. But amid that rural splendor there are few good jobs and, officials said, little access to medical care.”

One-fifth of Putnam County residents live in poor or fair health – twice the number in St. Johns County, a ratio that closely matches the number of health care providers:

”County health rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation show that there is one primary care physician for every 2,623 residents in [Putnam] county. One county east in St. Johns, there are more than double the ratio of family doctors, one for every 1,067.

None of this is surprising and most of it is common sense. Fletcher just tracked down some comparative statistics and presented them in a startling way and good for him.

Income and economic inequality do make the difference between life and death and we all know who's winning. More from the Washington Post:

“'It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out,' [Jeff Feller, chief executive of WellFlorida Council, a state-designated regional health-care nonprofit organization, said. 'You just have to look at the socioeconomic and demographic differences — unemployment, education levels, income between the two counties — to understand what is going on.

“'This is fueled by poor economics and a lack of access to health insurance and health coverage.'

“Those differences are compounded by the resource gap separating the two counties. With a healthy tax base that is recovering from the recession, St. Johns officials are in a better position than those in Putnam to address problems as they arise. When St. Johns officials learned of a change in the infant mortality rate, they quickly joined forces with local nonprofit groups to get information out encouraging prenatal care.”

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) revealed his budget plan yesterday which, if adopted, would further exacerbate the wealth gap. The highest income tax rate would be reduced from 39 percent to 25 percent. According to The New York Times, Ryan's plan also

”...would repeal the health care overhaul of 2009, eliminate the subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion that make up the core of the law, and turn Medicare into a system of private insurance plans financed by federal vouchers.

“The Republican proposal would also do away with Wall Street regulatory laws...”

Here is how one Washington Post reader interpreted Fletcher's story even before Ryan's budget was announced:

Let me guess: richer people eat better, get better health care, and have more leisure time to relax and exercise. Poorer people struggle to put food on the table, work more than one job, can't afford decent health care and have little time to rest, to exercise or to relax.

“The wealthier folks live longer and the poor work themselves into an early grave. Isn't that what the wealthier folks want though? Let the poor work until they drop and then they won't live long enough to collect social security and medicare.”

I couldn't say it better myself and Ryan just doubled down on the kind of policies that create these differences.

You can read the full Washington Post story here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: The Way We Are

Comments

GeeeeeZZZZ. Then again, we knew that, didn't we?

Just look at the stock market this last week. With the heady prospects of slicing earned benefits to the elderly and vets the wealthiest 2%, who own 90% of the stocks and bonds on the market, are delirious with joy. More for them, less for everyone else.

I saw a post on facebook, "Wake up! They're not coming for your guns, they're coming for your social security check!"

This is all so ugly and demoralizing. I think the Washington Post reader got it right that Paul Ryan and his cronies want to "Let the poor work until they drop and then they won't live long enough to collect social security and medicare.”

It's even worse than that with the current emphasis on poor health due to bad "lifestyle choices."

Translation-if one were needed-all these old people brought it on themselves, and now they expect us to pay for their wildly expensive care.

We live in Flagler County; which adjoins both Putnam and St Johns. The comparisons made between the counties seem stark - and they are. There is a lot more to this story that is not told - specifically the 'ethnic' demographics (if you know what I mean).

Flagler, as it turns out, has always been considered the poorest county in Florida. Yet you can count the hundred-plus million dollar homes along it's coast. It also has the only 'profitable' non-profit hospital among a half dozen hospitals in Volusia county (to the south) and Flagler county.

Flagler and St Johns counties, it would appear, are made up of a lot of New Englanders (New York mostly). They are accustomed to better than Florida's normal healthcare - and are vocal about it. Much like the better public schools are better because better people make known their displeasure.

I strongly recommend everyone get a copy of Time Magazine (March 4th, 2013) and read Steven Brill's article "Bitter Pill".

Why, in God's name, has this debate over healthcare costs centered on the individual? These ridiculous and overly excessive costs are squarely on the shoulders of the for profit hospitals, for profit insurance companies, durable equipment manufacturers, and the pharmas.

Why aren't the people marching in the streets ranting about this 'stealing from the poor to feed the rich and richer' (isn't the same as that awful redistribution of wealth people rail about)?

Don't believe me? Read about the 'chargemaster' in the article . . .

I did read the "Bitter Pill" article last week and do believe the 'chargemaster' and cost are the real problem. I do not know if the President's plan does anything about those two things but I sure hope it does.

I was going to say Paul Ryan is deaf, dumb, and blind ... until I realized that obviously he's not dumb. He's still talking and doubling down on the same plan that the country rejected in November.

I keep saying: it's all about GREED! There's plenty of it to go around these days, but it's definitely "advantage Republicans" when it comes to unabashed greed.

Big banks, big business, big insurance, big pharma, big bucks! What I will never understand is how the H*&%# those representing the 1% can keep on convincing a sizable percentage of the 47% (think tea partyers) that they'd be rich too if only it weren't for those pesky taxes, regulations and "entitlements" we liberals want to foist on the "makers/job creators" of the world. Oh, and don't forget all those minorities who keep wanting a fair share of the pie!

It's hard to think of anyone more "entitled" than Vulture Capitalist Mitt Romney and his ilk. As I see it one reason Mitt was so totally (and wrongly) convinced that he was going to win the election is that he honestly felt ENTITLED to the Presidency of the U.S. How's that for entitlement as a follow-on to greed?

Its very unequal for all fellow Americans to suffer like this. i agree with your blog.

It does seem fairly obvious that the more stress you have in life, the shorter your life span might be.
So it naturally follows that the more money you have the better the opportunity to take better care of your self.

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