Universal Healthcare: Defining the Terms

single payer healthcare, terms, definitions, medicare for all

With politicians across the U.S. talking about Medicare for All, a public option, and universal coverage, you may be wondering what all the terms mean. Here’s a quick primer to define the terms that are being bandied around about universal healthcare.

Key Definitions


single payer healthcare, define, terms


Medicare for All: A system proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would lower the age of Medicare gradually (by 10 years every year for four years) until everyone would get coverage. Medicare would also expand to include more services and eliminate deductibles and copayments. In this scenario, there would be no private health insurance. In other Medicare for All proposals, Medicare for All would simply be an expansion of the current Medicare system as it is.


Single payer healthcare: A term for a government healthcare system in which there is one source for insurance for everyone. Typically, this is funded by taxes and run by the government. Medicare for All is a version of single payer healthcare.


Socialized medicine: A system in which the government is the insurer, and also runs hospitals and employs doctors. An example of this is Britain’s National Health Service.


Public option: A scenario in which certain Americans can qualify for government insurance and can choose to buy a government plan or a private plan. In some public option proposals, the government plan would be Medicare or Medicaid. In others, it would be a separate public insurance plan. There are various proposals for a public option—for example, the new bill introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that would allow people older than 50 to buy into Medicare.


Universal coverage: The idea that everyone has a right to healthcare coverage, whether through single-payer or a combination of public and private programs.


More details on the specific bills that propose each of these systems can be found in this article from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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