Breaking down the Single-Payer healthcare system

Written by 
Leila Abbas, APN
Reviewed by 
Mary Beth Kacyn, LCSW
  • Single-payer healthcare has been a hot debate topic for years. To learn more about the basics behind single-payer systems, read this section.
  • Single-payer healthcare systems and multiple-payer healthcare systems have aspects in common, however, they function very differently. To learn more about the difference between single and multiple-payer systems, read this section.
  • Single-payer healthcare and universal healthcare are terms that are often viewed synonymously, however, there are many nuanced differences. To learn more about the differences between single-payer systems and universal healthcare, read this section.
Single payer healthcare system

What is a Single-Payer Healthcare System?

Single-payer systems is known as a type of health care system that provides universal coverage or universal health care for the citizens of a country. Specifically speaking, a single-payer healthcare system is when a single public or quasi-public agency finances healthcare for a nation. In most cases, the public agency funding health services is the government. That being said, the healthcare itself is facilitated privately by various practices and providers, giving patients the freedom to choose who they receive care from and where. Single-payer healthcare systems make all medically necessary services available to patients, e.g., annual doctor visits, long-term care, mental health care, reproductive health care, dental care, vision services, prescription medications, etc.

Medicare for All

In many ways, single-payer healthcare systems are similar to the United States’ national health insurance known as Medicare. This is why the push for a single-payer system is known as Medicare for all” in the U.S.

Note: To learn more about Medicare for All,” the single-payer health system being pushed for in the U.S., visit this source.

Comparing health insurance

Comparing Single-Payer Health Care to Other Systems

Difference Between Single-Payer Healthcare & Multiple-Payer Healthcare

A sole entity fully finances single-payer health care systems. Meanwhile, multiple-payer healthcare systems are funded by more than one entity. In most cases, the single entity funding healthcare in single-payer systems is the government. However, in multiple-payer systems, the government is but one of the few agencies providing healthcare for its nation. Frequently in multiple-payer systems, various private health insurance companies offer patients individual premiums for their healthcare coverage. 

Difference Between Single-Payer Healthcare & Universal Healthcare

Many believe that these terms are synonymous, however, there are nuanced differences. Universal healthcare means that everyone in the country has healthcare coverage that doesn’t impart financial hardship. But, the healthcare that everyone has does not have to be paid for by a single party; it can be funded through multiple parties. Therefore, single-payer healthcare systems are technically universal, but universal healthcare systems are not always single-payer.

Single-Payer Healthcare: Pros & Cons

Medicare for All is a hot topic of debate in recent years, pinning single-payer healthcare systems as a key point of discussion. While the arguments are expansive, some of the most common points on both sides are listed below.

Arguments for Single-Payer Healthcare Systems

Two of the most common arguments in favor of single-payer systems are:

  1. Single-payer healthcare systems are a step in the direction of equality and equity as they provide healthcare coverage for all citizens. Having coverage for all permits every resident direct access to care and treatment options.

  2. If single-payer healthcare systems were introduced in the United States, health insurance costs would be reduced in comparison to what they are now.

Note: To learn more about arguments in favor of single-payer healthcare systems, visit this source.

Arguments Against Single-Payer Healthcare Systems

Two of the most common arguments against single-payer systems are:

  1. In order to transition into a single-payer healthcare system, taxes would need to be increased to cover the cost of universal health coverage.

  2. While single-payer systems do increase access to care, obtaining physical care would be difficult. This means to say, increasing access to healthcare without increasing the number of providers in the field leads to longer wait times and limited appointment availability for patients.

Note: To learn more about arguments against single-payer healthcare systems, visit this source.

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