Are Republican Spending Cuts Putting Lives in Danger?

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Conservatives do not purposefully pass bills that intend to put the public’s health at risk. Rather, their preoccupation with favoring business interests at the expense of healthcare and environmental spending endangers people’s health—and even sometimes their longevity.

According to World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. In the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming, it was revealed that climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300 million people worldwide.

Americans are not safe from this phenomenon either. According to the EPA, a total of more than 9,000 Americans have died from heat-related causes since 1979, according to death certificates. Despite the aforementioned death rates caused by human-driven climate change, many conservatives including President Trump seem to ignore this environmental change as evidenced by their support for withdrawal of Paris Climate Accord. Aside from climate change, Republican policies regarding healthcare and research could also lead to deleterious health consequences for people influenced by them.

As it relates to climate change, an overwhelming majority of scientists have long warned politicians about harmful implications of ignoring it. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, changes in greenhouse concentrations could bring about a myriad human health consequences. For instance, climate change is directly associated with a variety of harmful respiratory diseases, which can cause extreme suffering and even death for victims. According to an article published in 2010 by the National Institutes of Health, climate change causes increased human exposure to pollen, molds, air pollution, dust, and aerosolized marine toxins which make respiratory allergies and diseases more prevalent.

Moreover, climate change has been proven to increase the prevalence of cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death in America and around the world. Climate change increases exposure to toxic chemicals through flooding and heavy rainfalls as it leads to an increase in the presence of toxic chemicals and heavy metals from storage sites due to rainwater run-off.

Climate change is also proven to increase exposure to UV light, which is the primary cause of skin cancers and cataracts. Aside from cancer and respiratory diseases, warmer temperatures also play other medical conditions such as cardiovascular, waterborne, foodborne, and neurological diseases.

In spite of all of these predicted health outcomes, Republicans seem to oppose climate change regulations, as they claim more environmental restrictions will strip away American jobs. In fact, environmental protections are more prone to create jobs because investments in renewable energy will replace jobs in dirty fossil fuel sector with high-paying renewable energy jobs.

In terms of healthcare, Republicans have been pushing for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act for years now without any reliable plan to replace it. Obamacare repeal would take insurance away from 30 million people which could have devastating consequences for uninsured people, especially the ones with preexisting conditions.

The proposed replacement for Obamacare, The American Healthcare Act, rolls back protections for people with preexisting conditions. For more than 30 years, researchers have been studying the impacts of healthcare coverage on human life and similar analyses have proven that Obamacare repeal would lead to tens of thousands of deaths annually.

According to an analysis by The Washington Post, repealing the Affordable Care Act will kill more than 43,000 people annually. Although researchers are not certain about the number of people who would die as a result of Obamacare repeal, their estimates hover around 14,000 to 60,000 deaths every year. An Institute of Medicine report in 2009 rounded up evidence which explained why deaths occur as people lose their insurance. Basically, despite the availability of some safety net services, there is a chasm between the health care needs of people without health insurance and access to effective health care services. This gap results in needless illness and suffering.

Research has also been at the forefront of President Trump’s budget cuts for the upcoming year. The National Cancer Institute which plays a crucial role in cancer research and training is facing a $1 billion cut compared to its 2017 budget. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute would see a $575 million cut, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would see a reduction of $838 million. The administration would cut the overall National Institutes of Health budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion. NIH and NSF are the main sources of grants and funding for health related research. Any cuts to these essential programs will deprive current and future patients of medical innovations that could save their lives.

Conservatives do not purposefully pass bills that intend to put the public’s health at risk. Rather, their preoccupation with favoring business interests at the expense of government spending on healthcare and the environment endangers people’s health—and even sometimes their longevity. Human life is invaluable, and its preservation needs to become the cornerstone of conservative policies.

Kamyar Yazdani is a student at Duke University

Kamyar Yazdani is a student at Duke University studying biology. He writes about the intersection of politics and science and is originally from Iran.

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