NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 10, 2005

Single-payer health care -- in which the government runs a state's entire health care system -- is making news in California thanks to Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Calif.) whose bill just passed the state Senate and is marked to pass the Assembly. But Californians should look north of the 49th parallel to see their future, says Sally C. Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute (PRI).

In Canada, where the government runs a monopoly over the health care system, it's long been known that taxpayer-supported single-payer health care is the best health care system available, if one is healthy and doesn't have a job. It's also long been apparent that the government monopoly health care system has a problem with meeting demand for its free services, resulting in:

  • Long lines for everything including seeing a primary-care doctor; nearly 4.2 million Canadians can't find a primary-care doctor.
  • Difficulty in securing diagnostic procedures, advanced treatment and surgery, and life enhancing procedures such as hip and knee replacements.

Supporters argue that such inconveniences are small prices to pay for a system that, at least on paper, covers all the medical needs of every Canadian.

What is less well known is that the system makes it illegal to purchase private insurance to cover services allegedly provided by the government, but a recent Supreme Court ruling in Quebec might allow Canadians to check out and actually leave with the assistance of private insurance.

The court ruled that the monopoly is unconstitutional, and Canadians should not be forced to endure endless waiting times as the price of maintaining a public system. But until all Canadians can pay for private care, the lines will continue to grow and Californians should take note because this might be their future, says Pipes.

Source: Sally C. Pipes, "Hotel California Health Care," Pacific Research Institute, July 21, 2005.


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