By Sen. Steven Thayn
Some of my constituents do not understand why I am opposed to Medicaid expansion. The reason is simple. Medicaid and other social programs increase consumption without requiring production. This will lead, over time, to an increase in poverty and government dependency.
For many, the main currency of creating good public policy is increasing government’s charitable activities; they believe government can help the poor by providing medical services. Not expanding Medicaid, to them, is simply withholding compassionate medical services. According to this perspective, only good is created with no harm to individuals or society.
However, focusing solely on helping people by giving them medical services is a form of single entry accounting. Only one side of the balance sheet is being considered which ignores other important factors which should not be ignored.
Economic systems have a production side and a consumption side. Production must take place before consumption occurs. Bread must be baked before being eaten. Clothing must be sewn before being worn. Furniture constructed before being used. Roads built before being driven on. Everyone must consume food, clothing, and fuel everyday of their lives in order to survive. Without consumption, human existence is not possible. Interestingly, consumption cannot take place unless someone first works and produces food, clothing, and housing. Production comes before consumption.
Medicaid expansion, as well as other wealth-redistribution programs, enables people to consume without producing. While limited charity has an important place in society to help those that are elderly, disabled, or unfortunate, creating long-term entitlement programs creates a class of people that is given goods to consume without an expectation of production. Personal and society long-term productive capacity is reduced.
Poverty is a function of lack of access to consumable resources. The solution that mankind has tried for our entire existence is for government to take from those who have more and give to those who have less. While this approach seems to make sense, it never reduces poverty. In fact, wealth redistribution tends to increase the number of poor because they are able to consume without production. This tends to reduce the overall production in society and robs society of its capacity to reach greater levels of prosperity.
There are two choices before us. We can choose to tax the productive among us at a higher level and transfer wealth to the poor causing a decrease in production thus increasing the number of poor; or, we can choose to help, encourage, and give the poor opportunities and incentives to become more productive which will increase the number of productive and reduce poverty.
The Medicaid expansion population is aimed at mostly, young, healthy, single adults. Medicaid expansion will not help them become more productive. The main beneficiaries of Medicaid expansion are hospitals; not the poor. Why would we expand Medicaid when a better alternative exists? I will introduce an alternative that provides medical care while encouraging personal production.
Idaho Sen. Steven Thayn represents District 8 in the Idaho Senate. Contact him here.