Congress just passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a series of sweeping healthcare reforms. Among them are provisions that increase taxpayer-funded insurance subsidies and impose price controls on drugs. The White House framed the bill as a “historic legislative achievement” that will lower costs for families. But these reforms alone won’t satisfy ambitious progressives.
For many Democrats, the bill represents just one more step toward a government-run, single-payer healthcare system, styled as Medicare for All.
According to proponents like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Medicare for All would guarantee free, state-of-the-art care to every American. But a look at how single-payer plays out in other countries proves that it would cost patients dearly — not just financially but in human terms, too.
Canada boasts a publicly funded system that delivers care “free” at the point of service — a model progressive lawmakers want to copy here. But Canadians pay significant taxes to fund their supposedly “free” healthcare system. A typical Canadian couple with two kids now pays almost $16,000 for health insurance every year, according to new research from the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think tank.
A one-earner, two-child family making the median wage in Canada pays 27% of its income in taxes — 10% in income taxes and 17% in social security taxes, according to research from the Heritage Foundation. A comparable American family pays 4% in income taxes and 15% in Social Security tax.
Those higher income taxes are on top of the 11% to 15% combined sales taxes in effect across all Canadian provinces save one. Canadians also spend a significant amount of their own money on health care. Nearly 15% of the country’s health spending comes out of ordinary people’s pockets. That’s actually a higher share than in the United States. Between 1997 and 2022, Canadian households increased their healthcare spending by 210%. Incomes north of the border increased by 116% during that same period. Data from the United Kingdom illuminate a similar reality.
According to 2020 data from the charity group Age UK, only 21% of British seniors were getting state assistance to pay for at-home care and other related end-of-life services. More than one-third had to rely on family or friends for help.
Altogether, Brits and Americans spend about the same out-of-pocket on health care. Ultimately, the difference between these countries and the United States isn’t what people pay. It’s the quality of care they receive.
Consider the experiences of British patients. More than 6.7 million people were waiting for care in June, according to the British Medical Association. That represents a 50% increase over figures from February 2020. Today, the median wait for elective care is about three months. Those waits often force patients to pursue drastic measures to receive timely care.
Rather than waiting years, one family from Northern Ireland traveled to Turkey to get treatment for their 12-year-old son with scoliosis. They could only afford the treatment out of pocket thanks to a massive crowd-funding campaign that raised £50,000 — about $58,000. So much for free and accessible care.
A little over 10% of British people purchase private insurance in order to skip the waits endemic to the publicly funded system.
Canadians face similar difficulties. Patients wait a median of roughly 25 weeks between seeing a general practitioner and receiving care from a specialist. Emergency rooms are crowded, with 29% of patients waiting more than four hours to see a professional. That’s three times longer than wait times in the United States.
Due to pandemic-induced delays in treatment, things are unlikely to improve anytime soon in Canada or the United Kingdom. Ontario currently has a backlog of roughly 1 million surgeries. Some patients have waited upwards of five years to receive life-changing procedures, like hip replacements and eye surgery. Some Canadians dodge those waits by traveling abroad for care. More than 200,000 left the country in 2017 for timely care, according to Canadian think tank SecondStreet.org.
Democrats’ new reforms may seem minor, compared to a government takeover of our healthcare system. But they just mask progressives’ long-term goal of implementing a single-payer system, complete with long waits, rationed care, and doctor shortages — just like in Canada and the United Kingdom.