In late January, more than a million Americans watched an online town hall hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The topic? “Medicare for All.” No mainstream network would carry the event.
Predictably, the event was more of a pep rally for socialized medicine than a serious discussion of healthcare policy. Over the course of 90 minutes, Sanders moderated a series of panels, each one stacked with single-payer advocates from the worlds of business, medicine, and public policy. The speakers echoed the senator’s rosy depiction of single-payer healthcare.
In countries that have adopted single-payer, the reality is far bleaker.
The UK’s single-payer system, the National Health Service, is so poorly managed and understaffed that patients often wait for hours in ambulances or hospital hallways before receiving care. Hospitals recently had to cancel over 50,000 surgeries over the course of a month to make room for flu patients.
In Canada’s single-payer system, in which I grew up, median wait times for specialist treatment now exceed 21 weeks. Some patients face yearslong waits for the care they need. Doctors recently told one Ontario patient she’d have to wait four and a half years to see a neurologist.
Here in the United States, the government-run Veterans Health Administration is a national embarrassment plagued by medical incompetence, administrative corruption, and life-threatening treatment delays. Hundreds of veterans have died waiting for care.
Sanders claims a government takeover of the health sector would lead to higher quality, cheaper care for all. Americans need only look at the UK, Canada, or their own VA system to see that’s not true.