As healthcare premiums go up, Obamacare has become increasingly unpopular with the American public as more people lose their coverage, health plan, and their doctors. While Conservatives have offered free-market solutions to these issues, socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders have offered legislation that would introduce a government-run single-payer system that would bankrupt the country.
Sally Pipes is the president and CEO of the San Franciso-based Pacific Research Institute, a "Forbes" columnist, and healthcare policy expert who has written numerous books on the topic. Her latest book, "The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care" debunks the Left's idea of the federal government running the medical industry.
The following is an interview with Mrs. Pipes on the single-payer system, Canada's version of it, and the disaster that the federal government often brings to the medical industry.
Q: You recently wrote an article in Forbes about California’s healthcare system’s role in the tremendous, unattainable budget of two-hundred billion dollar budget for the state. What are some suggestions you have on fixing the Golden State’s healthcare system and making it more manageable?
Sally Pipes: Two-hundred billion dollars is a lot of money. It was Governor Jerry Brown’s very last budget and it keeps going up and up as more government programs are becoming entitlement programs in the state of California.
It looks like Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom will become the new governor and he is big supporter of single-payer healthcare or “medicare for all,” not allowing any private insurance at all, making everything under a government plan.
In June 2017, the state senate passed SB-562, a single-payer bill, which have cost, according to the senate appropriations committee, four hundred billion dollars a year, double the size of the California budget. Fortunately the bill was parked by the legislature’s Democrat speaker of the house, who said it did not say how much the bill would cost or how it would be paid for.
The last thing we want in California is a single-payer healthcare system which is even more comprehensive than the one in Canada.
Q: On the Canada note, its healthcare system has a lot of proponents in the United States who want to duplicate their programs for us. Could you briefly touch on Canada’s system and whether or not it would work in the US?
Sally Pipes: I am Canadian, I grew up under the single-payer healthcare system. Canada is only one of eleven developed countries that does not allow for any private insurance for something that is medically necessary.
I previously worked at an institute where we started a publication called "Wait Your Turn: A Guide To Waiting Lists In Canada."
In 2017, the average wait time to see a primary care doctor or treatment by a specialist in Canada was 22.1 weeks, over five months. Over one million Canadians are on that list, trying to get a doctor. Just last week, the Fraser Institute released the cost of this “free” system. It turns out that nothing is free. An average Canadian family of four pays, through hidden taxes and fees, around thirteen thousand dollars for long waiting lists, rationed care, and light access to the latest treatment.
Also, there’s a shortage of doctors and hospital beds in Canada because doctors’ salaries are tied to what each provincial government is willing to pay for a procedure. Of course, a lot of doctors quit medicine and retired early.
This is a system we do not want in the United States, but Senator Bernie Sanders has been pushing this very hard with his “medicare for all” bills since he was running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016.
He never says what this would cost, but the Urban Institute, which is Left-wing, said $32 trillion over ten years.
Q: That’s trillion with ‘T'?
Sally Pipes: Trillion with a "T." This would mean that the United States would have the same problems as Canada. Rationed care, long waits, much higher taxes. That includes income taxes, corporate taxes, payroll taxes, and even if you doubled all of those taxes, it would not cover the cost of this of this single-payer system.
Q: President Obama tried to initiate a universal healthcare-light, known as Obamacare, and one of your accomplishments is your commentary on Obamacare. In 2016, you wrote the book "The Way out of Obamacare" where you lay out a plan to get out of that system. Do you believe that President Trump’s attempt to stall Obamacare through executive order helped or hurt the process of repealing it? Or could the current administration do more?
Sally Pipes: Obamacare became the law of the land on March 23, 2010, so it’s eight-and-a-half years old. It has not worked for the American people. High premiums, high deductibles, narrow networks of doctors and hospitals, and only 12 million people covered in a country of over 330 million, so it has not worked.
President Trump, when he was running for president, along with GOP candidates for the House and Senate, were running on a repeal and replace measure for Obamacare.
Unfortunately, by the fall of 2017, they were unable to achieve that. President Trump, in October, announced a plan to extend shor- term plans from three months to twelve months. The executive branch even made it so you could extend it to thirty-six months if you wanted.
Now these plans are not for everyone and (Democrat Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer is trying to say they are junk plans. They are not, they are giving people who don’t have employer-based coverage an option. I’m a big fan of this new rule.
Q: Are you for a straight repeal, repeal and replace, and if so, what would you replace it with?
Sally Pipes: I’ve been a huge fan of "repeal and replace." When (former Health and Human Services Secretary) Tom Price was in the House with Speaker Paul Ryan, we were all on the same page on a replace agenda. I would like to see it fully repealed and then replaced with a plan that empowers patients and doctors, not the federal government.
The plan I would like to see would change the tax code to allow those with private insurance to get the [same] tax benefits as those with employer-based coverage. People who are insured through their employer get their coverage tax free, but if you go into the individual market you have to pay for it with tax dollars.
That would be a huge thing in leveling the playing field. I would like to see states reduce their mandates on healthcare. I would like to see medical malpractice reform. Doctors do practice defensive medicine because they are afraid of being sued. I’d like to see people be able to buy insurance from across state lines. I’d like to see Medicare made better by increasing the age limit from 65 because the average American lives to 79. I would like to see changes to Medicaid.
There’s a lot of things that can be done.
The last thing is, when you hear people on the Left saying that Republicans want to go back to hurt people with pre-existing conditions, there are only about six million people in the market who have chronic or pre-existing conditions. The solution to help those people is to allow the states to set-up high-risk pools with funds from the federal government so that those people could get coverage and not make younger, healthier people pay for those costs. High-risk pools are a great way to deal with people who have these pre-existing conditions.
Q: One last question: Your latest book, "The False Promise Of Single-Payer Healthcare," will be released in March. Tell us what it is about and what you hope your readers will take away from it.
Sally Pipes: As America has become enthralled with the idea of a single-payer, Medicare for all system, with people like Bernie Sanders and the new darling of the Left Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the polls show that 51% of Americans and 75% of Democrats favor that kind of system. My book explains exactly what single-payer is and gives examples of it in Canada and the U.K. Long wait periods, people dying in the hospitals, and it even talks about the Veterans Administration which is a true single-payer system. It discusses how harmful it has been to the vets, and how they need privatization so our vets can have the best care.
This is what I talk about so I can educate Americans on this crazy idea about full government takeover of our healthcare system.
To find out more about Sally Pipes' books on healthcare policy, you can visit her Amazon page.