Why The United States Should Not Have Single Payer Healthcare

by Jacob McCartney on 2017-04-26

Imagine going to the doctor and not paying a cent. This is an idea becoming more and more popular. Single payer healthcare is an extremely favorable idea on the political stage today. Many politicians advocate for it. Bernie Sanders almost won on ideas like it.

Let us look at some examples of the single payer system in action. Canada has it, as does Australia and many European countries. How are those countries doing with it? Does it work? Canada, for example, has a life expectancy of 81, compared to our 78. Canada’s infant mortality rate is .05, compared to our .06. Canada also spends over $2,000 less per capita than the United States does on healthcare. It looks like a pretty decent system. However, a closer look shows otherwise.

Single payer healthcare can be paid for in only one way: taxation. Canada pays for the $6,000 per capita expenses using a combination of income tax (49%), sales tax (16%), and corporate tax (14%). The rest comes from various other taxes. In countries that offer single payer, the lowest marginal tax rates are high. In Germany, 44.3%. 40% in the UK. 45.4% in France. 45% in Australia. In Canada, actually, it is lower at 29%.

The Canadian government currently spends $137.3 billion annually on healthcare for their population of 35.16 million. The United States has a population of 318.9 million. Canadian healthcare spending has tripled since the 70s. On average, Canadians use $220,000 of free healthcare in their lifetimes.

Not only is it expensive, it will take a while for you to get it. A 2016 study by the Fraser Institute shows that the median wait time for “medically necessary” treatments is 20 weeks. That time is “between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment,” and it is up from 18.3 weeks in 2015. For less important, diagnostic services, wait times are not nearly as long but remain unnecessarily high. For CT scans, the median wait is 3.7 weeks. For an ultrasound, they wait 4 weeks.

The government covering the cost of healthcare would lead to several problems. First, it would result in lower payments to hospitals and doctor’s offices due to the way funds are paid out. This would lead to a reduction in the quality of healthcare services. Daniel Summers, a pediatrician in Boston, worries about having to cut employees and hours under such a system. He says “it would immediately put pressure on [them] to eliminate services [they] provide that do not generate any revenue.”

It would also limit access to healthcare in the short term by causing doctors to leave the profession, and it would reduce it in the long term by reducing the incentive to choose a career in health and medicine. Because of less people in the field, medical progress would be reduced.

Current calls over the last two decades by Congress to reduce Medicare payments to physicians have been met with a fight from those in the field. Doctors argue that reducing the payments would cause more physicians to stop accepting Medicare patients and see only privately-insured patients. Many have already elected to do this.

In a single payer system, there is only one payer — the government. With this system, the government is at liberty to reduce payments much more than it can under Medicare presently. This has been shown to happen in the UK and Canada, where physicians make on average 30% less than they do in the US. Under a single payer system, doctors and other healthcare providers would receive less money.

My conclusion after looking over the facts is that a single payer healthcare system would be detrimental to the economy and to the health care industry, and it should not be implemented in the United States. Furthermore, it should be repealed in other countries if they want to improve their quality of healthcare and boost their economies.


Barua, Bacchus, and Feixue Ren. “Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2016 Report.” Fraser Institute. Fraser Institute, 23 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Book, Robert A. “Single Payer: Why Government-Run Health Care Will Harm Both Patients and Doctors.” The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 3 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

“Healthcare Wait times Hit 20 Weeks in 2016: Report.” CTVNews. N.p., 23 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

“List of Countries by Personal Income Tax Rate.” Trading Economics. Trading Economics, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Picard, André. “Canadians Use Average of $220,000 in Public Health Care over Lifetime.” The Globe and Mail. Public Health Reporter — The Globe and Mail, 14 May 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Qiu, Linda. “How Much Would Bernie Sanders’ Health Care Plan Cost the Middle Class?” PolitiFact. N.p., 13 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Starr, Paul. “The Larger Problems of the Sanders Single Payer Plan.” The American Prospect. N.p., 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Summers, Daniel. “I’m a Doctor. Here’s Why I Oppose the Single-Payer Revolution.” New Republic. New Republic, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.