Single-Payer Advocates Distort the Truth


Single-payer healthcare is alive and well – at least in the minds of Progressives. This is no surprise since they’ve been pushing this agenda for the last century.

The latest state to take up this proposal is California. Last month, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced he was forming a special committee “to develop plans for achieving universal health care in California.”

Sally Pipes, writing in Forbes, says Rendon has been under pressure from Progressives all summer ever since he shelved SB 562, a bill passed by the Senate on June 1 that would have placed all Californians into a new, state-run single-payer healthcare system. No one, however, has figured out how to pay for the system.

It is true that single-payer is more popular than ever according to recent polls. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed 51% of Americans support it. A Pew Research Center poll found that even 12% of Republicans favor single-payer, an increase from just 7% three years ago. According to an IBD/TIPP poll, 57% of those closely following the healthcare debate favor single-payer. Even doctors surveyed by Merritt Hawkins favored it by 56%.

All of which just goes to show how ill-informed most people, even doctors, are about single-payer healthcare.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the leading advocate of single-payer healthcare in the Senate. Sanders campaigned for the presidency last year promising everyone “Medicare for All.” Now he has introduced new legislation in the Senate he calls The Medicare For All Act. What he won’t discuss is the failure of single-payer in his own state of Vermont.

Even though Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin promised the people a single-payer state healthcare system, he admitted defeat when the numbers didn’t add up. The plan would have required a 160% tax increase to pay for the $2.9 Billion increase in annual expenditures. It would have required an 11.5 % increase in payroll taxes plus premiums of up to 9.5% of income. Despite these increases hospitals and doctors would have been paid less.

The state of Colorado has also tried this idea. Coloradans got to vote on this issue in the November election but when they saw the price tag included a $25 billion payroll tax, 80% voted against it.

There is plenty of real world experience to measure the effectiveness and cost of such systems in other countries. The United Kingdom, Canada, and Sweden all have single-payer systems and all have been forced to pay private practitioners out of the system for treatment to alleviate the horrendous waiting times within the system.

The British NHS system recently abandoned its goal of providing elective procedures such as hip replacement and hernia repair within eighteen months. They have also resorted to denying surgeries deemed by the government as “of limited value.”

In Canada, the Fraser Institute reports median wait times to see a specialist are now 20 weeks (that’s five months!) – more than double the wait in 1993. Wait times for a CT scan or ultrasound average a month; for an MRI it is three months.

So the lessons of experience are clear. Single-payer healthcare produces:

  • Increased waiting times for diagnostic testing and treatment
  • Delayed or denied surgical procedures
  • Massive tax increases


How could anyone favor single-payer healthcare if they knew all that?


(Note: For more on single-payer healthcare, read earlier posts Reasons for Single-Payer Defeat in Vermont and Single-Payer Versus Market-Driven Healthcare: Which is Better?)

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