Recently, Medical Health Insurance Today posted a very insightful article from Alison Landes regarding the Single Payer health care system here. The article discusses many different topics from single payer health care to universal health care. To the layman, all of these esoteric phrases and concepts may be intimidating. What does it all mean? In this article, I plan to examine the terminology used in Single-Payer. In doing so, we should better understand the core concepts behind these phrases (making Ms. Landes’ article much more approachable).
What is Universal and Single-Payer Care?
In order to understand the similarities and differences between single-payer and universal health care, we must first understand exactly what the two systems are. At its core, universal health care is a generic term for a system that ensures every citizen receives health insurance. This umbrella phrase encompasses various systems or funding models such as compulsive insurance, social health insurance, and even single payer insurance. Various countries implemented a form of universal health care. For instance, the Soviet Union implemented a type of universal care in 1937 and amended this system to incorporate rural residents in 1969. By contrast, Saskatchewan commenced a universal healthcare system in 1962. The rest of Canada incorporated a similar system by 1972.
As I’m sure you already deduced, single payer health care is just one type of universal care. At it its core, the single payer health care system is a funding mechanism in which the government pays for all of the health care costs. The actual health care of a single payer health care system may come from private or public instructions. Canada once more provides us with a classic example of a single payer insurance system in which private organizations provide the actual health care despite the publicly funded system. To date, nine states of the United States submitted proposals for a shift to a single-payer system. These states include: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Currently, Vermont is the only state to successfully vote a state mandated single-pay system into place.
Two other common terms that are commonly tossed around are Medicare and Medicaid. Both Medicare and Medicaid are systems implemented by the United States. Medicare is a social insurance program put into place in 1966. Medicare ensures that all Americans age 65 and older who have paid into the social security program have access to public funded health insurance. Additionally, citizens with certain disabilities may be eligible for Medicare.
Medicaid is another publically funded program that ensures that people of certain income levels and with disability have access to health insurance. Poverty may not necessarily guarantee a citizen receives Medicaid. Currently, Medicare and Medicaid are only available to legal citizens of the United States.
What Have we Learned About Single-Payer Health Care?
To some of you, the terms discussed in this post may come across as rudimentary. My hope is that if you didn’t understand the terms used in Ms. Landes’ article, you do now. Understanding the terms allows us to better approach and understand Ms. Landes’ article. One thing we can clearly see is that the systems of publicly funded health care are numerous and varied. Therefore, we cannot discriminate against all publically funded health care systems by citing one ‘bad’ system (such as the Soviet Union). Instead, we must examine each care system on a case by case basis. We must also recognize that within one health care system further sub-systems exist. In doing so, we educate ourselves and avoid making sweeping generalizations.