What to Expect from a Single-Payer Health Care System
Posted by ssbg on June 24, 2007
Posted Jun 23rd 2007 4:41PM by Paul Mirengoff
From: Power Line Reports http://newsbloggers.aol.com/2007/06/23/beyond-sicko/
Jeff Hoard wonders why Americans are suspicious of Socialized Medicine. This article for the Heritage Foundation by Kevin Fleming may help him understand. (The Executive Summary of Fleming’s heavily footnoted piece is here). Based in part on an analysis of the British and Canadian experiences, Fleming describes the ten things one can expect from a single-payer health system.
The first is reduced quality of care. For example, only three of 29 countries studied by the OECD had fewer practicing physicians than Britain. And in a study of cancer survival rates in 17 countries, Britain ranked near the bottom in lung cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer survival. Britain has fewer medical oncologists than any country in Western Europe.
The second is periodic funding crises. Providing “free” medical care increases demand for it. When the government responds by restricting spending, as it has in Britain, patient demand far outstrips health care supply. As Fleming shows, this has been the pattern under Britain’s single-payer system. Indeed, Britain has underinvested in health care during the past 30 years compared to the European average.
The third is politically driven inequalities. As Fleming documents, Canada has a three-tiered system. The wealthy jump queues by going to private clinics or to the U.S. for rapid treatment. The second tier consists of the well-informed and the aggressive, who push their way to the front of the line. This leaves behind the elderly, the poor, and the disenfranchised. Similarly, a 2002 investigation showed that in Britain more than 10,000 private-pay patients were given preference over National Health Service patients in Britain’s best hospitals.
The fourth is labor strikes. Strikes are common in state-operated enterprises. The health care industry has proven to be no exception. CBC News reports that Canadians have “come to expect [strikes] as part of the negotiating process between doctors and the government.” In the past three years, Canada has experienced major health care related work stoppages in New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Ontario.
The fifth is personnel shortages. According to Fleming, Canada has a serious shortage of physicians such that 18 percent of Canadians have trouble finding a doctor. Canada has 2.1 physicians per 1,000 people, compared to an OECD average of 2.8.
The sixth is outdated facilities and medical equipment. In government-run industries, equipment purchasing and technology investments are driven by politics. Fleming shows the adverse consequences that have resulted from this reality in Britain and Canada. For example, according to the president of the Canadian Association of Radiologists, much of the country’s diagnostic equipment “is so outdated it would not be used by radiologists in the U.S.”
The seventh is waiting times. This is topic Michael Moore didn’t want to discuss. Waiting times in Canada and Britain are notoriously long. In Canada, for example, the average wait time between general practitioner referral and specialty consultation is 17.7 weeks.
The eighth is signifcant variations in patient care based on region and economic status. This, of course, is a major problem with health care in the U.S. But Fleming shows that it exists to a substantial degree under single-payer systems, as well.
The ninth is financial waste. In 2001, Britian reportedly lost 20 percent of its total spending on its national health care system due to “waste, fraud, and inefficiency.” Britain now has more administrators than consultants in the system.
The tenth is loss of personal liberty. Personal freedom in the health care context means that patients can choose their treatments and which doctors will provide them. Under Socialized Medicine, a government official makes these choices. Pressure also arises for government officials to impose behavioral decisions on individuals in order to keep health care costs down. Americans tend to be quite suspicious of giving the state this kind of power, particularly in the life and death context of health care.
In sum, as the U.S. grapples with the issue of health care reform, there are very good reasons to eschew Socialized Medicine.