Beware of the Pitfalls of Single-Payer Plans

By Daily Editorials

August 1, 2019 3 min read

Bernie Sanders has repeatedly touted his "Medicare for All" plan as better than what we have now. He says that, under his proposal, no American would be denied access to a doctor.

But Sen. Sanders won't say if the plan will let you "keep" your doctor if you "like" your doctor — sound familiar? In fact, his approach would make it illegal for Americans to go outside the government-run system to pay for their own health care needs.

In addition, the single-payer systems he admires — such as those in Canada and Great Britain — often prevent people from getting the medications and care they need when they need it. In Canada, for example, residents routinely purchase private health care plans to help offset the costs of things such as prescription drugs. In Great Britain, the number of people waiting for routine care is fast approaching crisis levels.

As the Daily Mail reports, new data shows the waiting list with Great Britain's National Health Service has reached a record high for the third month in a row, with nearly 4.4 million waiting for routine operations. That number was up by a quarter of a million people between February and May alone. One year ago, there were 4.09 million people on the waiting list. Two years earlier, the figure was 3.81 million.

Other data from NHS shows that more than 1,000 people have been waiting for more than a year for their treatment, and the number of accident and emergency patients stuck on beds in hallways while waiting for inpatient rooms has increased by 70% in just a year. Research from the BBC shows nearly three out of four NHS hospitals failed to reach a government target of treating 85% of cancer patients within 62 days of being referred by a general practitioner.

As the Daily Mail reported, the slow responses and longer wait times have been blamed, in part, on physicians and medical staff turning down extra shifts because they're afraid of being clobbered with tax bills of up to 90% on their pensions if they make more than the equivalent of about $137,000 a year.

Similar staffing problems already exist in the United States and would only get worse under socialized medicine. As the Washington Examiner aptly points out, Medicare for All will rely upon reimbursement rates that are 40% lower than rates from private insurance companies. That won't attract doctors to join or remain in the medical field.

Before Sen. Sanders or any of the other Democratic candidates touting "free" health care convinces you that single-payer is the way to go, do your homework. Until someone comes up with a way to fund universal health care without decimating the health care industry, we remain skeptical at best.

A version of this editorial first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a News Herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.


Photo credit: stevepb at Pixabay

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