Last week we looked at Medicare. This week, let’s turn our attention to Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health care to the poor.
Medicaid has always suffered politically from the fact that it is a benefit for a portion of the population, not for everybody. It was Franklin Roosevelt’s genius to make Social Security available to all Americans, an entitlement that is, consequently, politically untouchable. In the best of all possible worlds, America would have long since adopted universal health insurance with some kind of single payer system, and health care would then be untouchable politically. But, things did not work out that way. Indeed, because a single payer system had zero chance of passing Congress, one of the ways the Obama health care reforms expand coverage to more Americans is by expanding the number of people eligible for Medicaid.