Despite Some Problems, Americans Should Be Grateful for Current Health Care System
Recently, I had a health scare that sent me to the emergency room for a few hours. The care that I received at UC Davis Medical Center was excellent.
I drove myself to the emergency room at 6:30 in the morning. Upon registering, I saw a doctor within twenty minutes of my arrival in the emergency room and had a potential diagnosis within an hour.
By the time I left the hospital at around 1 PM, I had received an MRI that was prescribed as a precautionary measure, received the results, and was prescribed medication and a regimen for treatment – with a follow-up appointment scheduled with my primary care doctor 3 days later. And thankfully, within a few days, I was back to normal.
While I was sitting in the emergency room waiting for my MRI results, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I was to be a patient in the United States. For all the complaints that many have about health care in America today, one takes for granted just how good our system truly is until you find yourself in need of urgent medical care.
And I also thought just how bad things would have been for me had I needed urgent care in a country like Canada or the United Kingdom that has a single-payer health care system. If I did, my medical problems would probably still not yet have been resolved today.
More likely, I’d still be waiting to see a doctor, and would have several weeks to go before getting an appointment. I would have been on my own to do an online search and try and self-diagnose what was wrong with me and self-prescribe a course of treatment.
As our Sally Pipes has written in the past, common features of single-payer systems around the world are long wait times, and lack of access to doctors and specialists.
She recently told Mark Levin on his Fox News Channel show that to get an MRI in Canada, patients had to wait on average 11 weeks, which is nearly 3 months. In contrast, I received an MRI within two hours of the doctor prescribing one.
She cites a study from the Fraser Institute in Canada documenting that the average wait time for referral from a primary care physician to see a specialist is even worse – approximately 20 weeks or five months.
In the United Kingdom, Pipes notes that system is short by about 100,000 health care workers according to the latest figures. This includes doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. As a result, 14 percent of UK operations are cancelled at the last minute, due to a shortage of either doctors or hospital beds. According to figures from July 2018, 4.3 million UK patients were waiting for an operation.
While America’s health care system is by no means perfect, its current problems in no way justify destroying it by switching to a single-payer or “Medicare-for-All” system.
As Pipes wrote in a recent Fox News article, “seven in 10 Americans say they’d oppose ‘Medicare-for-All’ if it led to delays in getting some treatments and tests.” Obviously, those seven in 10 Americans had a trip to the emergency room in recent memory and received speedy and excellent care.
I believe that only when you experience our health care system firsthand as a patient do you truly appreciate just how good we have it here and why the radical changes proposed by single-payer proponents would put everyone’s health at risk.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.