Study: Free Market Health Care Works Better Than Single Payer

By June 5, 2017Healthcare

When Shona Holmes was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she was also told she had to wait six months for treatment. Thankfully, she left Canada and found treatment in the United States before it was too late.

Shona’s outrageous wait time is not unique. Under Canada’s single payer, government run health care system, median wait times have risen from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 20 weeks in 2016. These wait times are a result of government rationing that hurts the most vulnerable. It’s no wonder that a new study from Lancet shows the most free market systems are better than single payer systems.

The study analyzed findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study, which looked at health metrics around the world from 1990 to 2015. The results show that health care systems that are closest to a free market—such as those in Switzerland, Singapore, and the Netherlands–fare much better than those of the UK and Canada, the two single-payer systems the left hail as paradigms of excellence.

The Lancet study compares three important metrics:

  • The Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ)—This metric looks at the overall quality of health care in each country on a scale of 1 to 100. While Canada and the UK have HAQs of 88 and 85 respectively, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Singapore score 97, 90, and 86.
  • Adverse effects of medical treatment–this metric shows how many people died from medical mistakes on a scale of 1 to 100. While Canada scores at 82 and the UK scores at 76, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Singapore sit at 92, 90, and 97.
  • The HAQ Index Achievement Gap—this measures how much health care systems fall short of their potential in percentage. While the UK and Canada’s single-payer health care systems have achievement gaps of 6.3 and 4.4 percent, the free market countries are much closer to fulfilling their potential. Switzerland’s achievement gap sits at 0.0 percent, the Netherlands’ is at .9 percent, and Singapore’s is 3.7 percent.

Unfortunately, the U.S. does very poorly. Our HAQ score is 81, our score of adverse effects of medical treatment is 68, and our achievement gap is 11.1 percent.

 This should come as no surprise. After all, our health care system isn’t even close to a free market. Most people receive their health care from the government or from their employer due to our tax code’s incentivizes. Obamacare’s regulations have exacerbated this top-down approach by forcing people to purchase insurance and mandating what insurers could sell. As a result, costs have skyrocketed, making access to health care more difficult. 

 As our lawmakers consider how to repeal and replace Obamacare, they should pay close attention to this study’s results. The United States should move toward a free market, not the single-payer systems of Canada and the UK. The U.S. government already spends more money per capita on health care than single-payer countries. It’s doubtful that centralizing the payment process will improve health care for Americans. Instead, lawmakers should repeal Obamacare and enact other reforms to expand patients’ choices and bring down costs.