What can you say, except congratulations? Gov. Nathan Deal, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Attorney General Sam Olens and the Georgia Legislature have approached the implementation of ObamaCare with one overriding goal: Deny access to health-care coverage to as many uninsured Georgians as possible.

In fact, it was a year ago this month that Hudgens made it explicit: “Let me tell you what we’re doing (about ObamaCare),” he bragged to a crowd of fellow Republicans: “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

Their effort has been wildly successful. In fact, if our leaders had been half as successful at, say, improving education, growing the economy or solving transportation as they have been at denying health coverage to their own citizens, Georgia would be in high cotton instead of in long-term decline relative to the rest of the country.

This week, we got a peek at the true scale of their success with the release of state-by-state data compiled by Gallup. The numbers tell us that a year ago, before implementation of ObamaCare, Georgia had the nation’s 7th highest rate of citizens without health insurance. Today, we have the 3rd highest rate of uninsured. Well done, gentlemen.

The New York Times reports:

Despite strong dislike of President Obama’s handling of health care, a majority of people in three Southern states – Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina – would rather that Congress improve his signature health care law than repeal and replace it, according to a New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

The poll also found that a majority of Kentucky residents – and a plurality in a fourth state, Arkansas — said they thought the health care marketplace in their state was working well, even as they expressed strong disapproval of the health care law. More than twice as many Kentuckians say their state exchange is working well than say it is not.

The findings in the four states — all with political races that could tip the balance of power in the Senate — underscore the complex and often contradictory views of Mr. Obama’s principal domestic legislation four years after it became law.

Daily Kos reports:

About 225,000 Arkansans are too poor to qualify for a subsidy to buy health insurance on the exchange, and too “wealthy” to qualify for the state’s traditional Medicaid. But because the state expanded, using a “private option” to provide coverage, 155,567 of them now have insurance.

"We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the Private Option," said John Selig, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. "Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families." […]

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens (R) has a message for the estimated 57.2 million Americans suffering from diabetes, asthma, cancer, genetic disorders, and other pre-existing medical conditions: it’s your fault.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered video of Hudgens from a November meeting at the CSRA Republican Women’s Club in Evans, Georgia in which he makes the case against the Affordable Care Act’s mandated coverage for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. In fact, Hudgens compares requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions to requiring auto insurers to pay claims to any reckless drivers without comprehensive auto insurance who crash their cars.

Sunday, December 1, 2013 is World AIDS Day, an awareness day that sparked a global initiative to encourage countries and communities to take a stand against HIV/AIDS. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection and it can take years for a person infected with HIV to reach this stage.

From 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” The World AIDS Campaign focus on “Zero AIDS related deaths” signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all and a call for governments to act now.

AID Atlanta and several other metro area organizations are holding numerous activities during the coming week including free HIV testings, lunch and learn sessions and candlelight vigils. It is estimated that 33.3 million people have HIV worldwide, with 1.2 million persons who are living with HIV in the United States, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates. This number is expected to continue to increase over time, as advances in treatments prolong the lives of those who are infected and more people become infected with HIV each year.

Despite increases in the total number of people in the U.S. living with HIV infection in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high of a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year. Worldwide, the rate of new infections, or incidence, has decreased. In 33 countries, the incidence has decreased more than 25 percent since 2001, including countries in the hardest hit areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Smokers’ days may be numbered on many of Georgia’s college campuses, as the state Board of Regents considers a total tobacco ban for all 31 institutions in the university system.

The ban is being pushed by Regent Thomas Hopkins, an orthopedic surgeon from Griffin who wants it to apply to students, staff and visitors.

The proposal, which he would like the regents to discuss early next year, follows a national trend of similar bans — promoted as health initiatives — implemented at schools, parks, around hospitals and in restaurants. Last September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a national tobacco-free college campus initiative to promote bans like Hopkins is proposing. The initiative counts more than 1,100 colleges and universities in its smoke-free fold.

Merrell Williams Jr., a one-time Kentucky paralegal who took on Big Tobacco as a whistleblower who leaked internal documents exposing health risks and the addictiveness of cigarettes, has died in Mississippi, decades after he joined the fight that forever changed perceptions of smoking.

Williams died last week of a heart attack in Ocean Springs, Miss., his daughter, Jennifer Smith, said Monday. He was 72.

He worked for a Kentucky law firm representing the then-Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and leaked thousands of pages of internal memos and studies concerning smoking and health that provided newfound ammunition to tobacco opponents.

The information made national headlines. News organizations reported the information showed Brown & Williamson executives knew decades earlier that nicotine was addictive and that they funneled potentially damaging documents to lawyers to keep them secret.

A few years later, the tobacco industry agreed to a massive settlement with the states over smoking-related health costs.

Mike Moore, who as Mississippi’s attorney general during that era, was at the forefront of the legal fight against the tobacco industry. He remembered Williams on Monday for making a significant contribution to the effort that put cigarette makers on the defensive.

"The now famous Brown & Williamson documents that Merrell was able to provide us, under extraordinary circumstances and threat, changed the course of our litigation," Moore said in an email. "We got on a plane and took those documents to Congress and the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)."

"The three big lies — cigarettes don’t cause cancer, nicotine is not addictive and we don’t market to kids — were all refuted by the B&W documents Merrell obtained."

Timothy Egan writes:

… [W]hat is distressingly similar today is how the South is once again committed to taking a backward path. By refusing to expand health care for the working poor through Medicaid, which is paid for by the federal government under Obamacare, most of the old Confederacy is committed to keeping millions of its own fellow citizens in poverty and poor health. They are dooming themselves, further, as the Left-Behind States.

And they are doing it out of spite. Elsewhere, the expansion of Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, has been one of the few success stories of Obamacare.

Andy Brack writes:

… [D]ay after day, America suffers from pure political theater fueled by billionaires’ millions who want nothing more than nothing done, save a status quo that keeps them near their gazillions.

And where’s South Carolina in all of this? At the back of the bus.

Because we have a governor and legislature hell-bent on not accepting billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of our poorest are left behind, financially unable to access the health insurance because they live here. But over there in Kentucky and 24 other states, the poorest of the poor are finally getting some health insurance, which is expected to keep costs lower by trading expensive emergency care for preventive, primary care.

Again, the whole mess doesn’t make sense, especially when the same state officials salivate over taking federal money to finish an Interstate, save an unemployment fund or pay for disaster relief.

Instead of looking to lead to improve the overall health of the state, which should increase competitiveness and lower business costs down the road, South Carolina sits on its hands, looking for loopholes through inane exercises like trying to nullify federal laws, strategies that didn’t work 150 years ago. You’d think we would have learned our lesson in the Civil War.

Hope all South Carolinians will read this story:

The reality … is more complex. South Carolina officials say they welcome the prospect that more than a half-million state residents — out of a population of 4.7 million — could soon gain access to affordable coverage, even without the expansion of Medicaid eligibility. And they are working to remake Medicaid so that it does not just pay claims but produces measurable improvements in the health of poor people.

Even without a change in eligibility rules, enrollment is expected to grow as a result of the new health care law. The law requires most Americans to have coverage, and state officials predict that the mandate will prompt more of those who are currently eligible, but not enrolled, to sign up for Medicaid. Consumers will see many advertisements from the Obama administration and insurers urging them to obtain coverage, and that is also expected to drive Medicaid enrollment.

“If they are eligible for Medicaid, they should get it,” said Dr. William R. Jennings Jr., a medical director at the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “If people are eligible for coverage in the exchange, they should get it.”