I always have a moment of angst when I see my name in a headline, as I did last week in The Villager. What did I step in now? Am I in trouble? Not this time. Instead, fellow columnist Becky Osterwald agreed with me on some of my ideas regarding healthcare reform.
It’s not all kumbaya however, as we disagree on single payer as a fix for the havoc caused by Obamacare and other aspects of our healthcare insurance and payment mess. Note I didn’t criticize our healthcare, as the United States has the best in the world. It’s the financing and delivery that isn’t working.
Single payer means one entity paying everyone’s medical bills, specifically the government via taxpayers. Why not? We all have a right to medical care, don’t we? It’s in the Constitution somewhere. Or in the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps in the Gettysburg Address. Or not. I previously wrote here about healthcare as a right versus a privilege.
We already have three versions of single payer—Medicare, Medicaid and the VA. How are they working?
Medicare provides good coverage for 55 million elderly, except that many physicians are not accepting new Medicare patients. Funded by payroll taxes, Medicare will eventually run out of money as fewer workers are supporting a greater number of retirees. Not to mention the fraud and abuse that we regularly read about in the news.
Medicaid provides taxpayer-funded medical care for 75 million low-income individuals. If you think it’s tough for a Medicare recipient to find a doctor, it’s even more difficult for someone with Medicaid. Not only individual physicians, but even many of the specialty clinics at CU Anschutz Hospital don’t accept Medicaid patients.
Lastly is the VA system with endless stories of fraud, waste and abuse. Secret wait lists. Incompetent administrators receiving obscene bonuses for denying care to veterans.
If the government takes over medical care for everyone via a single-payer scheme, expect this dysfunction to affect all 320 million Americans.
For comparison, how is single payer working out in our northern neighbor Canada? Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats rave about Canadian healthcare.
The Fraser Institute, a Canadian public-policy think tank, looked at wait times for medical care. If you have a medical problem in Canada, your first stop is your local GP. If they can handle the problem, the story ends there. If not, then they refer you to a specialist who runs tests and plans a course of treatment.
The wait time in 2015 from GP referral to specialist treatment was on average 20 weeks or five months. Good luck waiting that long with a bad heart, painful knee or cancerous tumor. What if you need a diagnostic scan in Canada? The wait for a CT scan is four weeks, and 11 weeks for an MRI scan. What’s the rush?
Which is why 52,000 Canadians received nonemergency medical treatment outside Canada in 2014. Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams chose to have his heart valve replaced in Florida, rather than waiting for care in his province.
Single payer sounds good in theory, but would, in reality, be more like an amalgam of the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the DMV. Congress, in its dysfunction (another point where Becky and I agree), may eventually throw up its hands in exasperation trying to repeal and replace Obamacare, giving us single payer instead.
If you think things are bad now, just wait. The medical care you want may not cost you anything, but you may wallow in pain or even die waiting for whatever care you finally get.
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