What is Single-Payer Healthcare?

single payer medicare health insurance

Amidst the ongoing chaos that has been the GOP-led plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, there’s been much discussion about what type of health insurance system should be put in play to replace it (if it is ever repealed). In the immediate aftermath, Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a “Medicare-for-All” plan that would be based on a single-payer system. Those who oppose the healthcare plans proposed by the GOP and supported by President Donald J. Trump feel single-payer is the best option. Needless to say, single-payer is not without its critics.

When you read about Medicare in the news these days, single-payer has continued to pop up in the headlines as a viable type of healthcare insurance coverage. Single-payer has become a hot topic since the 2016 election, and even brings some supporters together from both the left and right side of the political spectrum.

So what exactly is single-payer healthcare? It’s a system in which residents pay the state to cover healthcare costs, rather than buying from private insurers. The delivery of care remains largely in private hands, i.e. private hospitals and doctors.

The term “single-payer” refers to the funding mechanism – a single public body from a single fund, financed by taxes paid by residents to the state to cover healthcare costs.

Similar systems are in place in countries such as Canada and Taiwan, and other countries, such as Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, use a hybrid public/private structure.

Currently in the U.S., some states are making moves to bring the single-payer system to Americans. For instance, New York State passed a plan on May 16, 2017 to create a single-payer health insurance plan, and California is working toward the same. More and more Americans, including Warren Buffett and President Trump, are talking about the possibility of single-payer in the U.S.

Single-Payer Healthcare – in Summary:

  • Rather than multiple competing health insurance companies, a single public or quasi-public agency finances healthcare for all.
  • Care remains in the hands of private hospitals and doctors.
  • Insurance is not based on employment, but is a public right for all.
  • You may still choose where you receive care.


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