In September, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., established a Medicare for All PAC that will provide financial support to candidates championing a single-payer system. Jayapal is one of three co-chairs leading the House’s recently-established Medicare for All Caucus, which has 70 members.
The group’s website argues that by expanding Medicare and eradicating private insurance, the federal government can provide healthcare that is “affordable and accessible to every American.”
That’s a nice talking point. But it doesn’t match the facts. While Canada is the only developed country with a true single-payer system, which Medicare for All would replicate, many nations have ceded healthcare responsibility to the government and suffered the consequences.
For instance, the United Kingdom’s 70-year-old government-run National Health Service is crumbling. The system is plagued by chronic staffing shortages. In fact, experts call it a “national emergency.” One in 11 NHS jobs for doctors is vacant, and the system needs nearly 42,000 more nurses.
Consequently, wait times are abysmal. More than 21 percent of patients in Scotland wait for more than six weeks for critical diagnostic tests like colonoscopies and MRI scans. Scottish patients who need physical or occupational therapy are rarely seen in a timely fashion — less than 50 percent get an appointment within a month.
And 75 percent of young people in the United Kingdom wait so long for mental health services that their condition deteriorates in the interim. This summer, the number of people waiting for healthcare in the UK reached a staggering 4.3 million — a 10-year high.
The situation is no better in my native Canada, where all private insurance is banned under its single-payer system — akin to the Democrats’ Medicare for All proposals. After receiving a referral from general practitioners, Canadian patients waited a median of 21.2 weeks in 2017 to receive treatment from specialists.
Wait times are even worse for some specialties. Patients wait a median 17.9 weeks to just consult with an orthopedic surgeon — and end up languishing an additional 24 weeks until they receive treatment.
Many patients are so frustrated they leave the country to seek timely medical treatment elsewhere. In 2016, 63,000 Canadians traveled abroad to seek treatment.
Compare that to Seattle, where Jayapal’s constituents live. Patients wait an average of just seven days to see an orthopedic specialist — one-eighteenth of the median wait in Canada.
It’s baffling that Jayapal would continue to pursue Medicare for All when her own constituents are clearly in a better position than those in countries like Canada with its single-payer system.
With Medicare for All, Americans would technically have health insurance. But they wouldn’t be able to access care. As just-retired Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court Beverly McLachlin wrote in 2005, “access to a waiting list is not access to health care.”