What is single payer?
Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private. Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.
Is national health insurance ‘socialized medicine’?
No. Socialized medicine is a system in which doctors and hospitals work for and draw salaries from the government. Doctors in the Veterans Administration and the Armed Services are paid this way. The health systems in Great Britain and Spain are other examples. But in most European countries, Canada, Australia and Japan they have socialized health insurance, not socialized medicine. The government pays for care that is delivered in the private (mostly not-for-profit) sector. This is similar to how Medicare works in this country. Doctors are in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis from government funds. The government does not own or manage medical practices or hospitals.
The term socialized medicine is often used to conjure up images of government bureaucratic interference in medical care. That does not describe what happens in countries with national health insurance where doctors and patients often have more clinical freedom than in the U.S., where bureaucrats attempt to direct care.
Who will run the health care system?
There is a myth that with national health insurance the government will make the medical decisions. But in a publicly financed, universal health care system, medical decisions are left to the patient and doctor, as they should be. This is true even in the countries like the U.K. and Spain (or in U.S. systems like the VA) that have socialized medicine.
In a public system, the public has a say in how it’s run. Cost containment measures are publicly managed at the state level by elected and appointed agencies that represent the public. This agency decides on the benefit package and negotiates doctor fees and hospital budgets. It also is responsible for health planning and the distribution of expensive technology. Thus, the total budget for health care is set through a public, democratic process. But clinical decisions remain a private matter between doctor and patient.
This idea of health care for all NC is pie in the sky. Why do you think it will ever happen?
The passage of Medicare in 1965 also seemed impossible, and many people fought it. But an idea that serves a great majority of people, coupled with economic pressures and strengthened by moral imperatives and taken up by a dedicated group, often becomes an obvious solution. One reason health care costs in the US are so high is that administrative costs and profits take about $350 billion per year.
Another reason health care costs in the US are higher than any other developed country’s is because so many people have no insurance. Their expenses are passed on to the people who are insured. Both hospitals and insurance companies use paying customers to cover non-paying customers.