Monday, April 1, 2013

Is the purpose of Medicaid to save lives?

DailyKos has a story reporting that expanding Medicaid would save 12,000 lives. It is a good benefit analysis. It's not clear over what timeframe 12,000 lives would be saved. Over the next year? Ten years? (It is probably ten years.) It completely ignores the cost of the program, but my estimate is about $10,000 in taxes per family.

Are you willing to pay $10,000 to save those people's lives? How many people will die because they have to cut back on medical care, gym memberships, more expensive but healthier foods, and are more stressed because of lower incomes after paying an extra $1,000/year in taxes?

The point is that the purpose of Medicaid isn't to save lives. If all we cared about was saving lives we wouldn't ban kidney donations and we would ban cigarettes, heavily tax soda, mandate more exercise for kids in school, all of which are policies being advocated that most people oppose. We care about how our food tastes and personal liberty and spending our money on things aside from health care (or taxes that pay for health care).

Calculations: 0.0001 deaths averted per enrollee from Finklestein et al. on the Oregon experiment => 12 million people enrolled at a cost of about $5,000 in taxes per person plus $600 in excess burden = $780 billion over 10 years. $780 billion / 313 million * 4 people per family = $9968 per family.

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