BusinessLawmakers Can’t Let Single-Payer Health Care Cross The Border—Or...

Lawmakers Can’t Let Single-Payer Health Care Cross The Border—Or The Pond


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A major federal agency recently took an important step to stop drugs from crossing the U.S. border.

Late last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “identified several deficiencies” in Florida’s plan to import prescription drugs from Canada. It’s the latest volley in an ongoing war between the FDA and the Sunshine State, the latter of which has spent years trying to skirt federal safety standards to buy drugs from our neighbors to the north. Several other states, including most recently Texas, are following Florida’s example.

Unfortunately, many progressives are determined to import something even more dangerous from Canada—single-payer health care. For decades, Canadians have shouldered burdensome taxes for the privilege of waiting weeks to receive subpar care. Things are just as bad in England’s government-run healthcare system.

The promise of government-run health care is also its fatal flaw. Single-payer systems offer patients comprehensive health care—everything from check-ups and prescriptions to surgery and chemotherapy—for free at the point of service.

Of course, governments cannot overrule the laws of supply and demand. Declaring something free does not make it abundant. Quite the opposite. Single-payer systems create unlimited demand for finite goods and services. This causes massive backlogs and leaves patients stuck waiting for medical care.

Canadian patients face a median wait of close to seven months for treatment from a specialist following referral by a general practitioner, according to a study from the Fraser Institute. There’s wide variance by province. The median wait for specialist treatment after referral by a general practitioner in the province of Prince Edward Island is over a year—64.7 weeks.

The waiting list for hip and knee replacements in Newfoundland has steadily had nearly 2,000 people on it since 2022, according to reporting from the CBC.

Things are hardly better in England, where 7.6 million people were stuck waiting for treatment as of June. Two in five of those patients had been waiting more than 18 weeks, The Guardian reported in August. Some 400,000 were waiting for cardiac treatments, while “a record 12,799 had been waiting more than a year for time-critical heart treatments.”

Canadians and Britons pay dearly for the “free” care their government underwrites. The Fraser Institute estimates that the average Canadian family of four paid around $17,000 in taxes to fund the country’s national healthcare system in 2022. In Britain, which permits a limited amount of privately funded medical care, patients are taking out “personal medical loans” to pay for treatment. One lender’s offerings can saddle a person with up to $30,000 in debt at an interest rate close to 15%.

Patients aren’t the only ones feeling the strain of single-payer. Canada’s hospital employees worked a combined 18 million hours of overtime from 2020 to 2021—the equivalent of 9,000 full-time jobs. This increased strain drives burnout, which pushes doctors and nurses to leave their professions. That exacerbates the shortages inherent in a government-run system, where limited public funds can only underwrite so much spending on care.

Patients pay the price by waiting, while the remaining doctors struggle to meet seemingly unlimited demand for their services.

In the United Kingdom, medical professionals are fighting to be fairly compensated. Junior doctors, who make up nearly half of the National Health Service’s staff, went on strike in August to demand higher pay, putting the NHS near a “tipping point.

Meanwhile, here in the states, progressives act as if these stories don’t exist. Just a few months ago, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I.-Vt., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D.-Wash., both reintroduced bills that would create a single-payer system in the United States. Medicare for All is an even more generous version of Canada’s healthcare system—and as such, would carry even higher taxes, long waits, and other systemic issues that plague our neighbor to the north.

To hear Sanders and Jayapal tell it, the U.S. healthcare system is riven by skyrocketing costs and inefficiencies—and only a government takeover can provide universal access to comprehensive care. An honest look at the healthcare systems in Canada and Great Britain should disabuse them—and anyone else sympathetic to the idea of Medicare for All—of that notion.



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