Health care in the United States is flawed; however, a universal health care system would be a disastrous over-correction and would have people believe that there are not devastating tradeoffs for this “free” government program.
One of the pitfalls we see in other countries in implementing public health care is the quality and access to health care dramatically decreases. In comparative performance studies between private and public health care, the results are fairly consistent — private health care providers, whether for profit or not, were more responsive, spent more time with patients, had more access to medications and were more able to adjust for communicable diseases.
An argument for public health care is that it will increase access and therefore encourage individuals to get regular checkups, thereby preventing diseases or the progression of potentially fatal illnesses that were caught early. However, in countries where large public health care systems are in place, access is more limited due to perpetual triage that these systems have to do because the demand for health care is so high. For example, the National Health Service in the U.K., the largest single-payer health care system in the world, organizes medical consultations and treatments by medical priority, which creates long waiting lists where patients wait months for surgeries or consultations. The wait time in the 1990s was up to two years and they had to create laws to reduce the wait time from years to months. In Sweden, the 2016 nationwide average wait for even prostate cancer surgery was 17.4 weeks. The Frazier Institute of Canada reports last year the wait time for medically necessary treatment was 19.8 weeks and roughly 52,513 Canadians seek medical care in the United States every year.
In these public health care systems it has become common for individuals to pay for private insurance so they can be seen quickly, then they are taxed for their national health care as well as paying for private insurance. In Sweden, it is estimated one in 10 people now have to buy private insurance. Then, when they are finally seen, because coverage for treatments and medications has been decided by bureaucrats, coverage for necessary medications or treatments is limited and things such as diabetes medication, cancer treatment and many others are not covered.
The next big concern is expense. Using the projected cost of a single-payer health care system such as “Medicare for All” as an example, a George Mason University study projected in 2018 that “Medicare for All” would, by a conservative estimate, cost the United States government an additional $32.6 trillion over the next 10 years. Charles Blahous, the author of this study, states, “Doubling all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.” The Canadian Institute for Health Information believes Canada spent approximately $228 billion on health care in 2016. That’s 11.1 percent of Canada’s entire GDP, and $6,299 per year or roughly $525 per month for every Canadian resident. However, the demand for health care is increasing dramatically every year thereby inevitably increasing the federal budget’s allotment for health care and ultimately increasing taxes.
Once again, it is clear that private health care has its failings, but idealizing universal health care instead is not the remedy.
One particularly off-putting deterrent to public health care is the matter of medical research. The United States currently spends more on biomedical research than any other country with nationalized public health care. The vast majority of that spending comes from the private sector because they can profit from any advances in medical research. This profit is a great motivator to invest in more research, which allows for new treatments and cures. It is not perfect, but the free market for insurance companies and health care providers in the United States keeps these profiting groups competitive and, best of all, it is not funded through taxes.
I would rather have the freedom to choose my insurance, even if it is expensive, than be forced to pay significantly more in taxes for an expensive and inefficient public health care plan. One size does not fit all.