Single Payer Waiting Lines a ‘Management Issue’?

Published December 9, 2014

I was a guest on WXXI News in Rochester, New York this afternoon, on the show Connections. I was there discussing single-payer health, joined by New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who has introduced a single-payer bill in New York every year for the past 22, if I recall correctly, and Dr. David Stornelli, a local physician who is the former head of the pro-single-payer group Physicians for a National Health Plan.

It was a lively discussion, and I thought I did reasonably well (others may think otherwise, of course). But one of the more fascinating points made by Assemblyman Gottfried was the claim that long waits for care in Canada are not systemic in nature, but rather a ‘management issue’ that is being resolved.

It had been a long time since I’ve heard that the issue of wait times was “being resolved,”but here’s why I find it particularly disingenuous and unpersuasive: Fraser Institute’s 2014 Waiting Your Turn

That’s a link to a study by a think tank in Canada. It’s an annual study going back to 1990, making this the 25th anniversary report. As I suggested during the show, if you have 25 years of reports documenting a single problem, you don’t have something that is simply a ‘management issue’ that is sure to be fixed in a jiffy, you have a systemic feature that has seemingly flummoxed the best and the brightest our northern neighbors have thrown at the problem.

I’ve always said I’d respect the single-payer advocate who would simply admit that wait lists for needed care are a systemic feature of single-payer (unless you abandon any and all cost containment efforts), but it’s worth it because of some greater good. It’s not my position, but at least I’d have some respect for someone who could be honest about the issue.

“Management issue’? Not so much respect for that argument.