COVID19

As I noted earlier this week, there's been a lot of renewed buzz recently about an article at Vice Media regarding the partisan divide in COVID death rates over the past couple of years.

I admit to not really understanding why the Vice story is making the rounds this week in particular. The article is from mid-November, and the study by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research which it references was first published in early October...in fact I wrote about it at the time.

The other thing which caught my eye recently is this viral tweet:

Every 10 days, more that 8,000 unvaccinated Republican voters are dying of COVID-19, five times the rate for Democrats, who have had at least 2 vaccination shots.

(sigh) Last month I posted what I assumed would be my final update of the red/blue and vaccination-level COVID death rate breakouts, but apparently that wasn't meant to be. For one thing, the latest variant, XBB.1.5 (some are calling it "Kraken" but I don't think that's anything official) has reared its head in the northeast. For another, there's been a renewed interest (at least on Twitter, anyway) in an article at Vice Media about the topic.

I'll be posting a second entry addressing that article, the study it cites, and some misinformation about the red/blue divide later this week, but first, let's take a look at where things stand as of mid-January.

COVID-19

As noted in November:

The graph below shows the partisan COVID death rate gap for every month since the pandemic began in earnest in March 2020. Specifically, it looks at the reddest 20% and bluest 20% of the total U.S. population based on the 2020 Presidential election results at the county level.

The reddest quintile includes roughly 65.1 million people living in counties where Donald Trump received 62.4% or more of the vote in 2020; the bluest quintile includes around 66.8 million living in counties where Trump received less than 31.6%. While the raw numbers aren't quite equal, both have been adjusted for actual population.

The initial COVID wave in March - May 2020, of course, devastated Blue America, primarily densely populated (and heavily Democratic) New York and New Jersey, while leaving Red America (mostly sparsely populated, rural Republican counties) relatively unscathed.

Yesterday I noted that the big year-end federal omnibus spending bill includes provisions which allow states to start kicking people off of Medicaid who are only eligible thanks to the COVID-19 public health emergency bills passed in 2020 & 2021..but it at least does so in a fairly responsible way by phasing out the extra federal matching funds gradually over a 9-month period, to prevent states from dumping everyone all at once.

The omnibus bill also includes other important positive Medicaid provisions such as letting children who are eligible for the program stay on it for at least 12 months regardless of  household income changes, and letting states offer 12 months of postpartum Medicaid/CHIP coverage to newborn children & their mothers on a permanent basis instead of the current 5-year limit.

As I (and many others) have been noting for over a year now, the official end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE), whenever it happens, will presumably bring with it reason to celebrate...but will also likely create a new disaster at the same time:

What goes up usually goes back down eventually, and that's likely to be the case with Medicaid enrollment as soon as the public health crisis formally ends...whenever that may be.

Well, yesterday Ryan Levi and Dan Gorenstein of of the Tradeoffs healthcare policy podcast posted a new episode which attempts to dig into just when that might be, how many people could be kicked off of the program once that time comes and how to mitigate the fallout (I should note that they actually reference my own estimate in the program notes):

OK, I really, really wasn't planning on updating these graphs yet again; it takes forever and I more than made my point with weekly/monthly updates for a solid year and a half period.

But then...this morning, NY Times columnist & Nobel Prize-winning economics professor Paul Krugman prominently featured my most recent COVID Death Rate by Partisan Lean & Vaccination Rate analysis from September in his latest column, so I figured what the hell and decided to dust off my spreadsheet one more time.

I already knew going into this update that the divides in Red/Blue COVID death rates and likely as well as in Vaccination Rate COVID death rates have shrunk over the past few months, for several reasons: First, the overall COVID death rate has dropped dramatically since the summer (which is obviously a good thing); it's been averaging between 300 - 400 per day since mid-October.

I wasn't really planning on doing another red/blue COVID death rate analysis; the point has been pretty much beaten into the ground by now. However, given how much interest there's been in the impact (or lack thereof) of the red/blue divide on the 2022 midterms, I figured I'd dust off the spreadsheet one more time.

First, a final summary of the actual impact on the midterms:

A couple of days ago, in Part 1, I looked at whether or not the massive COVID death rate divide between Republicans & Democrats between the 2020 and 2022 elections ended up being enough to be a decisive factor in any statewide races.

My conclusion was that there's likely to only be one statewide race* where a Republican candidate loses by less than the COVID death margin: The Nevada Senate race where, as of this writing, incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is trailing Republican challenger Adam Laxalt by less than 800 votes. I estimate that somewhere between 900 - 2,400 more Trump voters than Biden voters died of COVID-19 over the past two years, so if Laxalt ends up losing by less than 2,400 votes, I'd say it's pretty likely that yes, the partisan gap in COVID deaths did indeed play a small but critical role.

I posted my final analysis of the potential impact of the COVID death rate divide between Republicans & Democrats on 2022 midterm election results back in September.

According to official CDC data, around 815,000 Americans died of COVID-19 between 10/31/20 - 09/10/22. Of those, I had estimated that perhaps 569,000 had actually voted for Biden or Trump. The total number has tragically risen by around 7,000 more since mid-September, which means the number of 2020 voters who've died is also likely around 4,900 higher.

Nationally, Joe Biden received 81,283,501 votes to Donald Trump's 74,223,975 votes. If COVID impacted both voting blocs at identical rates, you'd normally expect roughly 9.5% more Biden voters to have died of COVID over the past 2 years than Trump voters...or roughly 25,000 more Biden voters.

Medicaid

As I (and many others) have been noting for many months now, the official end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE), whenever it happens, will presumably bring with it reason to celebrate...but will also likely create a new disaster at the same time:

What goes up usually goes back down eventually, and that's likely to be the case with Medicaid enrollment as soon as the public health crisis formally ends...whenever that may be.

Well, yesterday Ryan Levi and Dan Gorenstein of of the Tradeoffs healthcare policy podcast posted a new episode which attempts to dig into just when that might be, how many people could be kicked off of the program once that time comes and how to mitigate the fallout (I should note that they actually reference my own estimate in the program notes):

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