Nobel Laureate economist on Canadian health care and the ‘escape valve’

In Analysis, Opinion by Michael Rae

The below is from a recent interview of U.S. Nobel Laureate economist Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University.Question: It does sound like you are strongly in favour a single-payer system, though. Last year you signed, along with 266 other economists, a declaration that called on policymakers around the world to work toward universal health coverage.Arrow: I wouldn’t say I’m strongly in favour of a single-payer system. I can find objections to it. But I still think it’s better than any other system. However, the idea of permitting private practice must not be ruled out. Similar to the U.K., there can be a single-payer system which everybody can go to, and private medical practices for those who want. In the U.K., private medicine is about 20 per cent of the total, so there is this escape valve for those who want it, but also a single-payer system that anybody can join.Question: Perhaps the way to fix the American health care system is simply to adopt the U.K. model? Arrow: I would say the Canadian model, rather than the U.K. model. But it’s so politically out of the question I don’t even think about it.Arrow’s main contribution to thinking about medical care is his 1963 classic article, “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Health Care,” published in the American Economic Review. By the way, I reread that article a few years ago and I recommend doing so. It’s words, not equations. And it makes some very good points. Here’s my post on it.Now to…Read More —