Harris, liberals need to do their homework on 'Medicare for all'

Harris, liberals need to do their homework on 'Medicare for all'
© Stefani Reynolds

Is Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe press has its own border problem Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration I visited the border and the vice president should too MORE (D-Calif.) oblivious to the truth about single-payer health care? In a recent interview, Harris enthusiastically endorsed a “Medicare for all” health-care system.

She wants to abolish private insurance because with Medicare for all “you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require."


She continued: "Who among us has not had that situation where you got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, 'Well I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this.'? Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on."

She wants to move on to a government-run program like that in the U.K., presumably, or perhaps in Canada in order to cut down on wait times. What a concept. Does the senator know anything about those programs? Has she done her homework? Apparently not.

Why progressives who are pushing for a complete overhaul of our health-care industry (one-sixth of our entire economy) don’t bother to research alternatives is mystifying. It’s not that hard. But then, once you know the facts, it’s a little harder to cheerlead for the latest fad in leftist politics.

Complaints about poor care (egregious wait times, doctor shortages, overburdened emergency rooms, etc.) under the U.K.’s National Health System are well documented. Last year, 85 percent of U.K. respondents to a poll said their system was “overstretched” — the largest portion of every nation polled.

Such disappointing reports usually prompt liberals to suggest that Canada’s program is better. Called Medicare, it is newer (it became a national program in 1984) and better funded, they claim, and generally better managed.

That is the system, some argue, that we should be looking to as we contemplate an overhaul of U.S. health care.

The Fraser Institute, a reputable Canadian think tank, annually researches wait times over 12 health-care specialties and 10 provinces. In their most recent review, they found the median gap between a referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment from a specialist was 19.8 weeks, slightly below the 2017 figure, which was the longest ever recorded.

Importantly, the wait time is 113-percent longer than it was in 1993, when it was only 9.3 weeks. The trend is not positive. Delays are not the same across the country; in New Brunswick, for instance, it took 45.1 weeks to see a specialist.

The wait time isn't uniform for all specialties either. Seeing an orthopedic surgeon takes 39 weeks. In other words, getting a critically painful knee replaced might take almost 10 months. Seeing a medical oncologist for cancer treatment requires almost four weeks of anxious waiting.

It’s not only doctor visits that take time. Patients also have to wait for medical tests of various kinds. Fraser reports, “This year, Canadians could expect to wait 4.3 weeks for a computed tomography (CT) scan, 10.6 weeks for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and 3.9 weeks for an ultrasound.”

At the end of 2018, Fraser estimated that nearly 1.1 million Canadians were waiting for treatment. As the author of the report notes, these delays are not simply a matter of inconvenience but instead can have serious consequences, which include increased pain, anxiety and suffering.

Moreover, they can lead to “poorer medical outcomes — transforming potentially reversible illnesses or injuries into chronic, irreversible conditions or even permanent disabilities.” 

The Fraser Institute is not alone in finding Canada’s Medicare system below par. A review of 11 countries by the Commonwealth Fund found wait times in Canada longer than those experienced in 10 other countries, including the U.S.      

In the U.S., though wait times have grown under ObamaCare, they are still measured in days, not weeks.

Last year, the British medical journal, The Lancet, criticized Canada’s Medicare for its long wait times, which it said could become a “lightning rod issue” that could undermine support for the program.  


The journal also noted that Canada’s system does not pay for prescription drugs, dentistry and a host of other services; one polling outfit reported that as many as one-quarter of Canadians are not taking a prescribed medication because of the cost.

Long wait times and other issues drove more than 63,000 Canadians to travel to other countries for health care in 2016 (latest data available.) Many came to the U.S. That’s called voting with your feet.

The message to our progressives is clear: Be careful before you topple our health-care system in favor of one that sends patients packing in search of better alternatives. More importantly, do your homework.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. For 15 years, she has been a columnist for The Fiscal Times, Fox News, the New York Sun and numerous other organizations.