America’s doctors are warming to the idea of single-payer healthcare. A new survey from consulting firm Merritt Hawkins finds that 56 percent of doctors support a government-run system at least somewhat, with 42 percent expressing strong support.
It’s easy to see why so many doctors are fed up with the Obamacare status quo. But a federal takeover of our healthcare system isn’t the answer. Indeed, if physicians understood what single-payer means for their own profession, they’d be far less eager to make the switch.
Under a single-payer system, doctors would be forced to let the government’s finances, not their own medical judgment, dictate many treatment decisions.
Such ill-advised penny-pinching is routine in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. In fact, NHS organizations are now instituting so-called “lifestyle rationing” measures that delay certain surgeries for obese patients and smokers in an attempt to keep costs in check.
A recent investigation in the British Medical Journal discovered a surge in rationing for treatments and procedures such as cataract surgery, hip replacements, and arthritis medication. As one surgeon lamented, these policies “are unfairly and unnecessarily prolonging the time patients will spend in pain.”
Last year, Canadians waited 20 weeks on average from seeing a primary care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist, more than double the 9.3 weeks in 1993.
Physicians who support single-payer should also prepare for a pay-cut. In my native Canada’s single-payer system, physicians make significantly less than their U.S. counterparts. The average salary for an American orthopedic surgeon is more than double that of the same Canadian specialist, according to an analysis in Health Affairs.
Physicians are right that our health system needs a significant overhaul. But whatever may ail our medical sector, single-payer isn’t the cure.