Young doctors need to wake up to the grim reality of single-payer healthcare

For decades, doctor organizations such as the American Medical Association have opposed single-payer healthcare. But this opposition is ebbing. At the group’s June meeting, a cohort of younger doctors urged the AMA to adopt a neutral position toward socialized medicine.

The student arm of Physicians for National Health Insurance is part of the push. Growing in recent years, the group now has 1,400 members at more than 60 medical schools.

These young and idealistic doctors no doubt mean well. But if they understood how badly patients and doctors fare under single-payer, they’d be far less keen on socialized medicine.

Consider the miserable state of Britain’s single-payer National Health Service, which covers roughly 90 percent of the populace. It routinely rations care to deal with its chronic resource shortages. More than 4 million patients are waiting to start treatment of some sort. More than 20 percent of cancer patients have to wait more than two months to begin treatment.

There’s little to envy about the lives of NHS doctors. By one estimate, the average general practitioner in the U.K. sees an astounding 41 patients a day. And they don’t make much money in exchange for handling all this stress — the average pay for these doctors is about $125,000. In the United States, it’s $217,000.

It’s no wonder the country is “hemorrhaging more general practitioners than are entering it,” as the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners recently put it.

The situation is just as bleak in my native Canada, where patients are often forced to wait months for care. Last year, the median wait time for specialist treatment after receiving a referral from a general practitioner reached a record 21.2 weeks, according to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute.

Doctors there are similarly overwhelmed. Many are retiring early and cutting back on hours. Four in ten doctors scaled back activity levels at least 10 percent in the three years before retirement.

America is already facing a doctor crisis. The American Association of Medical Colleges now predicts a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, a 15.6 percent increase from their forecast last year. Single-payer would only exacerbate this problem.

Young doctors increasingly support single-payer healthcare because they believe it will lead to a healthier, more equitable society. In reality, it would lead to healthcare rationing, higher taxes, and miserable working conditions for physicians.

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Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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