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What Is Single Payer Healthcare?

The United States is the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee access to basic health care for residents. Countries that guarantee health care as a human right do so through a “single-payer” system, which replaces the thousands of for-profit health insurance companies with a public, universal plan.

Does that sound impossible to win in the United States? It already exists – for seniors! Medicare is a public, universal plan that provides basic health coverage to those age 65 and older. Medicare costs less than private health insurance, provides better financial security, and is preferred by patients (Davis, 2012). Single-payer health care is often referred to as “Expanded & Improved Medicare for All.”

Under the single-payer legislation in Congress (H.R. 676):

  • Everyone would receive comprehensive healthcare coverage under single-payer;
  • Care would be based on need, not on ability to pay;
  • Employers would no longer be responsible for health care costs and coverage decisions;
  • Single-payer would reduce costs by 24%, saving $829 billion in the first year by cutting administrative waste and allowing negotiation of prescription drugs (Friedman, 2013); and
  • Single-payer would create savings for 95% of the population. Only the top 5% would pay slightly more. (Friedman, 2013)

See our basic handout on single-payer healthcare: “Improved Medicare for All: Quality, Guaranteed National Health Insurance” (you can order print copies at discounted rates from our online store), and more information on our Single Payer Education page.