So, why the heck don’t we cancel Medicaid and give the tax money spent on the program to the poor, as Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle suggested in a recent column?
Two reasons are a selfish interest to live and to have the freedom to leave our homes.
Right now, for example, South Korea is facing an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a vicious killer cousin of the common cold. The country has recorded nine MERS-related deaths, closed about 900 schools, and put about 3,000 people in quarantine.
Last fall, we were running similar articles about Ebola in Africa. At some point, in the future, we’ll probably run similar articles about a killer flu in the United States.
Maybe we’ll be able to cover one of those outbreaks up close, because we’ll have the bad bug. We’ll be able to get art for our coverage by going through our selfies.
The lesson is that, as costly and troubling as conditions like diabetes and cancer are, infectious disease is still a serious threat. There are scientists who continue to investigate the possibility that even the “diseases of affluence” may have something to do with infections.
The United States set up Medicaid partly to protect poor people against conditions that might afflict them, but partly in the hope that providing them with a basic level of care, whether they want it or not, will reduce the likelihood that their conditions will afflict the rest of us.
The second reason to have Medicaid is that we’re squeamish.