Resource Bank: Under Single-Payer, the Government Literally Decides Life and Death
On Thursday at Resource Bank, Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute shared the incredible story of her mother’s treatment—or, rather, lack thereof—by the doctors in the Canadian health care system. Pipes told the story, which sadly ended in her mother’s death, as a way to illustrate one of the central problems with single-payer health care systems such as Canada’s: When governments make health care “free” to the patient, they must also decide how scarce health care resources are allocated; that means bureaucrats decide whether certain procedures are necessary.
In the case of Pipes’s mother, her government-paid doctor denied her request for a colonoscopy because in his opinion she didn’t have colon cancer and in any case was too old to merit one. Some months later, she started hemorrhaging. By hospital rules, she could be admitted to the emergency room only if she arrived in an ambulance. So she had to wait for an ambulance, and then, after arriving at the ER, she had to wait two more days in “transit waiting”—which meant she wasn’t officially counted as waiting in the ER. Two weeks later, Pipes mother died of colon cancer.
Pipes’s mother’s case is not unique. In Canada, price controls on doctor’s salaries have eviscerated primary care medicine—because the controls have made it more lucrative to be a specialist. Over 5 million Canadians are currently waiting to see a primary care physician. Further, government-imposed limits on resource use mean that doctors often run out of their budgets by early November and stop practicing medicine altogether.
These are some of the things American patients can expect down the road if President Obama’s public plan option—“Medicare for all”—succeeds in its intent of driving patients from the private insurance market into a government-financed system.
Conservatives need to get on the ball and highlight these dangers if the slow-walk toward single-payer health care in America is to be averted.