As healthcare is consistently polling higher than any other issue in the US, discussions over single-payer health care have come to the forefront of political discourse. But what exactly is single payer healthcare, and what would its implementation look like?
Single-payer health care refers to a healthcare system in which all private and public insurance coverage are replaced by one national plan administered by the federal government and funded from national sources. This would differ significantly from our current healthcare system where Medicaid and veterans Affairs benefits cover low-income patients while most people also possess employer-based private healthcare plans in addition to Medicare coverage.
One prominent proposal to create a single-payer healthcare system has been proposed by Sen Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill in 2020. This single payer approach seeks to provide universal access to affordable, high-quality health care. Such systems tend to be simpler and less costly than our current healthcare system which blends government programs like Medicare and Medicaid with employer-based plans or marketplaces such as Obamacare (ACA).
Single-payer healthcare offers numerous advantages. First and foremost, it increases access to preventative healthcare services that can help ward off various conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. Furthermore, administrative expenses account for as much as 15% of healthcare spending in some countries – so reduced overall costs is achieved more easily with single-payer.
As well as improving coordination of care among physicians and providers, single-payer healthcare could also facilitate more efficient use of resources and reduce medical errors overall. While the details of how a single-payer system operates will differ based on individual proposals, most involve government paying directly for all health services rather than multiple entities (like private insurers) being reimbursed individually by individual insurers or providers; legislation typically addresses how this system will be funded, for instance through payroll taxes, income or sales taxes.
Opponents of single-payer healthcare point out its many potential benefits; however, their opposition stems from lack of experience with such systems in other countries, which they claim could result in long wait times for healthcare and reduced options available to citizens. Furthermore, new taxes needed to fund this system would lead to an increase in overall tax burden among its population, especially the wealthy.
Critics of this idea point out that implementation could occur gradually. Vermont passed Green Mountain Care legislation modeled on Canada’s single-payer health system – sometimes used as an umbrella term for socialized medicine – while other nations employ hybrid models where government pays for some health services while private health insurers cover others; one proposal from Center for American Progress would allow people to keep their private insurance while enrolling in a national plan.