"The current healthcare system in the United States is totally broken," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said at a recent event on Capitol Hill. "It is totally dysfunctional, and it is extremely cruel."
His preferred fix remains Medicare for All — a sweeping government takeover of health insurance. His latest attempt to advance this program began earlier this month, when he and 14 co-sponsors in the Senate introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2023.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., are the lead sponsors for a companion bill in the House.
The federal push for single-payer healthcare comes at a moment when several states — including California, New York, and Rhode Island — are considering government health insurance takeovers of their own.
The growing enthusiasm for this idea demonstrates an astounding disregard for reality.
Government-run systems of universal coverage in places like Great Britain and Canada routinely deny timely, high-quality care to patients in need.
If Sanders and his allies wish to see what genuine dysfunction and extreme cruelty look like, they should look across the Atlantic or beyond our northern border.
For years, British patients have endured life-threatening treatment delays, abysmally poor care, and deteriorating hospital conditions at the hands of their National Health Service.
At last count, a record 7.3 million English patients were waiting for care, or roughly 13% of the population.
Such seemingly endless waits have taken a toll on patient health.
Consider that, in 2022, deaths at NHS emergency departments rose by 20% compared to the previous year — and 40% compared to 2020.
The situation has gotten so bad that more and more British patients are fleeing the NHS and seeking care in the private market. This growing demand has led to a significant increase in the number of private physician offices opening up across Britain, facilities at which patients can pay out-of-pocket to see a general practitioner.
They'd rather pay hundreds of pounds an hour to see a doctor immediately than wait for a 10-minute consultation in the public system.
British patients are also making greater use of private health insurance in order to secure the care they need. According to one recent poll, about one in eight patients used private health coverage in the last year. A third of those individuals were using it for the first time.
Many Canadian patients wish they had the option to purchase private health insurance, as their British peers can. Private coverage for anything deemed "medically necessary" is illegal in Canada; only the government can pay for such care.
And that's led to widespread dissatisfaction.
Less than half of Canada's residents are pleased with their province's healthcare system, according to a poll from Ipsos. Two-thirds believe that private entities can provide health care faster than publicly funded institutions.
And more than half want to see access to private healthcare increased.
The public health system can't deliver timely care to Canadians. So some who can afford to pay out of pocket are doing so.
One Edmonton man told the CBC about how he spent $23,500 to get a hip replacement at a private clinic across the country in Quebec instead of waiting 18 months for surgery in the public system in his home province of Alberta.
This is the system that Sen. Sanders and company want to import to the United States — complete with a ban on private insurance. So, Americans might well not be permitted to pay out of pocket for timely care.
In announcing the introduction of the Medicare for All Act of 2023, Rep. Jayapal said that the bill "guarantees health care to every person as a human right."
But what good is such a right if patients cannot exercise it — and instead must wait in pain for even routine care?
That is a kind of dysfunction and cruelty that most Americans have never known — and with any luck, never will.
Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and the Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is "False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All," (Encounter Books 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes. Read Sally Pipes' Reports — More Here.
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