Canadian author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell made a damming admission Sunday about the harsh reality of single-payer health care. NBC News’ “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, in opening his nearly 20-minute-long interview with Gladwell, bemoaned the current “partisan way of thinking” in Washington, D.C., especially when it comes to health care reform and whether health insurance is a right or a privilege. Todd then asked Gladwell what Americans are “missing” when it comes to the sharp divisions on Capitol Hill. “There’s no opportunity for creative thinking. So what are we missing here? What would you be offering up to try to break the gridlock?,” Todd asked. “I’m not talking about a solution on health care. I’m talking about a solution on figuring out how to govern.”
Gladwell responded by pointing out the fact that he is Canadian and that Canada implemented a single-payer health care system decades ago. “The reason that Canada has single payer,” Gladwell explained, “is that Canadians had a conversation amongst themselves many, many years ago and they asked a very simple question, which is ‘What do we want from our health care?'” The Canadian then admitted what many critics of single-payer often point out — that with single-payer health care comes a decline in the quality and quantity of care available. “And they came to the answer that what we want is a system that covers everyone, and what that means is we’re willing to give up choice, we’re willing to give up the most high-tech solutions to various medical problems, we’re not going to have expensive, shiny hospitals,” Gladwell said.
“Basically, Canadians sat down and figured out what their priorities were,” Gladwell added. The Canadian journalist said he thinks one of the “root causes” of the current stalemate among U.S. lawmakers is that “no one’s ever had that conversation.” -- “I can’t figure out what people want. It seems to me that every party to the health care discussion wants something different and those things are all incompatible. You can’t want to curb the cost spiral and simultaneously have access to the newest drugs and simultaneously have patient choice and simultaneously have, you know, these are mutually contradicting options,” Gladwell observed. “So I think that we should take a little period and, a time-out, and say, you know, is it possible for us to agree on what we think the goal of our health care system is? And maybe out of that conversation you can reach a kind of a clear direction to a policy solution,” Gladwell said.