This weekend, I took my daughters to go sledding. Since we live in Southern California, this was an exciting event. In time for the holidays, a nearby park had set up a sledding hill and area for snowball fights. Even better, the snow event was free!
The snow event worked just liked a single payer system: for better or for worse. Like many single payer health systems, there was no cost to customers for entry into the event or for going sledding. There were no VIP lines; all individuals had equal access. And the cost seemed reasonable for the local government to incur, since they decided to fund it.
There was just one problem: I had to wait in line for more than 3 hours. The rationing involved not only the long wait times, but all entrants were allowed to go sledding only 1 time.
The snow celebration I attended captures everything people love and hate about single payer systems. It was equal access, low cost and was able to serve a lot of people. However, “access” to sledding was limited and there were long wait times. Rather than paying for sledding financially, one paid with their time. Further, “access” to sledding is probably overestimated because many people who went to the event last year, likely will not even try to go to avoid the long lines.
Like many single payer systems, there are private alternatives for sledding in Southern California. In the mountains, Big Bear SnowPlay offers sledding–with likely short wait times–but at a cost of $35 per person.
If you are a very cost sensitive person or one who values equality highly, then publicly-provided sledding may be the way to go. If you prefer not to have to wait 3 hours or have your access to sledding constrained, you may prefer to have the private sector take the lead.