It's been observed in a number of contexts that the demand for free things is infinite. Nowhere is the cost of providing "free" services as expensive as it is in the case of medical care.
So it's good news that the state of West Virginia, in deciding to expand the Medicaid program, intends to apply the commonsense discipline of asking some participants to make modest co-payments.
Medicaid has been called "Cadillac" coverage. It's first-dollar, open-ended insurance, the cost of which the user does not feel, but the providing society does.
About 350,000 West Virginians are already covered by the Medicaid program, which is bankrolled in part by federal taxpayers and in part by revenue that must be obtained from state taxpayers.
The Tomblin administration's decision to expand the program is expected to result in the enrollment of more than 91,500 people.
At first, the magnanimous Democratic Party that created the Affordable Care Act will have federal taxpayers pick up all the costs of the state's expansion of its program.
But a study commissioned by the Tomblin administration estimates that while the state's share of the costs will rise by only about $5 million a year in the first three years, state taxpayers will need to come up with an additional $65 million a year by 2020.
And it could get much worse. The federal government, lest we forget, is $16 trillion in debt for current consumption without the "affordable" care act.
As the Daily Mail's Zack Harold reported, West Virginia's Medicaid recipients currently make co-payments of only 50 cents to $3 for their prescription drugs. West Virginia is one of only 11 states that do not require beneficiaries to make co-pays for medical services.
The Tomblin administration expects to require some Medicaid patients to pay nominal fees for such services.
That's a wise move. It's not the amount of the co-pay for services that matters; it's the fact that a co-pay is requested at all.
People think twice when they have to part with even a little bit of their own money to obtain services that cost other people a whole lot of money.
Co-pays will thus discourage thoughtless - and costly - overuse of medical services.
That's a commonsense discipline that will encourage wise use of the nation's medical resources.