Study highlights long wait times in Canada under single-payer system. Does that make it a bad idea for U.S.?
The idea of a single-payer health system has been gaining ground among the general U.S. population and among doctors.
However, a new study focused on the long wait times that Canadians face between the time they see a primary care doctor and can get an appointment with a specialist for follow-up. Canada has had a single-payer system since 1984.
Opponents to a single-payer system say that’s a big reason why the U.S. should not move toward such a system, which has now largely been dubbed “Medicare-for-all.”
Specifically, the Fraser Institute’s 2018 report on wait times in Canada showed that wait times for medically necessary treatment actually decreased since last year, but specialist physicians surveyed still reported that patients wait nearly 20 weeks between seeing a primary care provider and receiving treatment from a specialist . . .
While proponents of a single-payer system like to praise Canada’s healthcare system as a model for the U.S. to follow, Sally Pipes, who began her career at the Fraser Institute and writes regularly about Canadian healthcare, said that is misguided.
“I think people do not understand how it works and the cost,” Pipes, the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, who now lives in California, said in an interview with FierceHealthcare.
A Reuters survey in August found that the vast majority of Americans, 70%, now support Medicare-for-all. And doctors, many who once vehemently opposed the idea, are increasingly on board. A survey last fall found that physicians favor a single-payer system by a slight margin even though many say their income will suffer under such a system and possibly lower the quality of care. The survey found that physicians favor a single-payer healthcare system (48%) over a multiple-payer system (45%).
But Pipes, director of the conservative think tank and an outspoken critic of government-run healthcare, said instead of looking to the neighbor to the north as a model, Americans should look at the Canadian health system as a warning. When the government is the sole provider of healthcare, you get long wait times, rationed care and higher taxes, she said . . .
But Pipes cautions Americans who support a single-payer system to educate themselves. Treatment delays can be deadly, she said. “All of my family and many friends are still in Canada. I can tell all kinds of horror stories,” she said.
Her mother died of colon cancer in 2005, Pipes said. She was diagnosed by her general practitioner, who told her that at her age she would have to wait over a year for a colonoscopy. About six months later after she experienced bleeding and went to the emergency room, she got that colonoscopy that showed her cancer had metastasized and she died two weeks later, according to Pipes.