Robert Samuelson put forward what would ordinarily be a very reasonable proposal on Medicaid and Medicare in his column today. He suggested that the federal government take over the portion of Medicaid that deals with low-income elderly and fold it into the Medicare program, while leaving states with full responsibility for dealing with the part of Medicaid that deals with low-income families below retirement age.

While he is right that this sort of consolidation could likely reduce costs and prevent seniors from falling between the cracks in the two systems, there is a basic problem with turning Medicaid over to the states. There are a number of states controlled by Republicans where there is little or no interest in providing health care for low-income families.

This means that if Medicaid were turned completely over to the states, millions of low-income families would lose access to health care. For this reason, people who want to see low-income families get health care, which is the purpose of Medicaid, want to see the program remain partly under the federal government's control.