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Single Payer Healthcare FAQ

For a longer FAQ addressing more than 50 questions about single-payer healthcare, visit our allies at Physicians for a National Health Program.

Question: Won’t Single-Payer Lead to Long Wait Times and Rationing of Care?

Answer: No. Every healthcare system has to ration its resources, but in the United States we ration based on ability to pay – leaving millions outside of the system – while single-payer systems ration based on medical need. As a profit-driven system, the United States does have problems with wait times for unprofitable forms of care such as primary care, mental health, and even emergency care, while it performs better on income-generating forms of care such as specialty procedures and oncology. Most countries with single-payer do not have wait time problems for any category of care (Commonwealth Fund, 2014), but Canada and England for example have had wait time problems for elective procedures and imaging services due to underfunding of equipment and specialists – particularly when conservative governments have been elected and slashed healthcare budgets. The United States spends two to three times what these countries spend on healthcare per person, and would not experience shortages by switching to a single-payer system.

Question: Is Single-Payer Healthcare “Socialized Medicine”?

Answer: No. Under socialized medicine healthcare delivery – hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, etc. – are public. Countries with socialized medicine provide excellent and affordable care, but single payer only refers to public (and universal) health insurance, not healthcare delivery. Providers would continue to be a mix of public and private, such as we have today.
Question: I Have Good Health Benefits Through My Work, Why Would I Want Single-Payer Reform?
Answer: Many with excellent workplace health insurance have found that a serious illness or injury may cause them to lose their job, and subsequently their health insurance. Furthermore, employers pay the full cost of health insurance out of reduced wages, and health care costs are devastating municipal, state, and federal budgets, cutting into vital public services like education and infrastructure. Single-payer reform means health security that cannot be taken away by misfortune; savings for households, employers and government; and the ability to control cost growth into the future.

Question: Will This Put The Government Between Me and My Health Care Provider?

Answer: No. Currently private corporations – health insurers – stand between you and your care providers, determining which physicians and hospitals you are allowed to see, imposing deductibles and co-payments that often make appropriate treatments impossible, and refusing to pay for care that your providers deem necessary. Under a single-payer system every resident would have full choice of provider, we could eliminate cost barriers to recommended care, and the only oversight for determining what care is appropriate would be provided by medical experts overseeing their peers – not the government.

Question: Would Single-Payer Drive Up My Taxes?

Answer: Single-payer would replace high, unpredictable premiums with lower, stable taxes. Unless you are among the top 5% of income earners, this would reduce your total healthcare costs.