Single-payer healthcare is making a comeback.
A new survey by Morning Consult/Gallup finds that 44 percent of American voters support universal, government-run healthcare. Meanwhile, two California state senators introduced the Healthy California Act in February, a bill that would create a single-payer system in the Golden State.
Even some prominent conservatives are backing the idea. In a recent New York Post op-ed, for instance, F.H. Buckley, professor at the George Mason School of Law, urged President Trump to embrace single-payer. Charles Krauthammer has predicted that Trump will eventually support single-payer, despite the president’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with something great.
What proponents of government-run medicine ignore, however, is that the policy has been an utter disaster everywhere it’s been tried. Consider the single-payer system in my native Canada, where patients routinely wait months to receive critical care. In fact, a recent study by the Fraser Institute found that median wait time between a referral from a primary care doctor and treatment by a specialist in the Canadian system was 20 weeks in 2016 — the longest on record.
Across the pond, the United Kingdom’s single-payer system (the National Health Service) is an even starker example of the dangers of government-run medicine. Wait times and overcrowding have gotten so serious that the British Red Cross recently declared that the U.K. health system is a “humanitarian crisis,” and with good reason. In January, for instance, three patients at an NHS hospital died on hospital beds while waiting to receive medical attention.
America’s own experiment in single-payer care, the Veterans Health Administration, fares no better. For years, the VA has subjected our veterans to dangerously-long wait times and low-quality care. In a report from March 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that one-third of the veterans they followed waited as many as 71 days to see a primary care doctor. Another third never even managed to get an appointment.
Given the damage wrought by Obamacare, it’s understandable that so many Americans want a comprehensive overhaul of our health sector. But single-payer is one of the few approaches to health policy with a worse track record than Obamacare. The only way to ensure that Americans have access to timely, affordable, high-quality care is by creating a competitive healthcare market — not a government healthcare monopoly.