What is single-payer healthcare? Single-payer healthcare is a type of universal healthcare that is publicly administered and is financed by taxes. Single-payer healthcare covers the costs of essential healthcare for all of a country’s residents with costs paid for by a single public system. Single-payer healthcare is different from universal healthcare even though the terms are used interchangeably. Universal health care refers to a healthcare system where every individual has health coverage; however, many countries have achieved universal healthcare coverage without using a single-payer system. In the United States, Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration are examples of single-payer systems.
The United States healthcare system faces several problems, such as spending much higher amounts on healthcare than other countries, using a complicated and wasteful network of insurance plans, and inequality. Proponents of a single-payer healthcare system argue that it would address these problems, such as helping the uninsured and underinsured Americans receive quality healthcare. They also suggest wasteful expenses could be controlled through cost control and lower administrative costs. Furthermore, single-payer systems can direct healthcare spending to public health measures, such as funding obesity prevention programs.
Opponents of single-payer healthcare argue that the system causes lengthy wait times and restricted availability of certain services and procedures. Opponents also argue that taxes, whether income, sales, or corporate, will be significantly higher in order to fund the single-payer system.
There are currently 17 countries that offer single-payer healthcare: Norway, Japan, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Sweden, Bahrain, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, and Iceland.
The United Kingdom has both universal healthcare and a single-payer healthcare system. Funding for the country’s National Health Service (NHS) comes from taxes. The United Kingdom’s healthcare system can also be called socialized medicine since a majority of hospitals are owned by the government, which also employs the medical providers. The U.K. citizens have the option to buy private health insurance, which grants them the option to receive faster access to care.
Healthcare in Canada is also a single-payer system, with most funds coming from income tax. Canada’s healthcare is mostly free at the point of use and most services are privately provided. Canada’s single-payer system is funded by income, corporate, and sales taxes. Unfortunately, long wait times plague the Canadian healthcare system, with some people waiting up to six months to receive surgery and up to two weeks to receive diagnostics tests such as MRIs and CT scans.
The United States is divided on the idea of a single-payer system. Some have suggested that the best course of action is a hybrid system, such as that seen in the United Kingdom, allowing people to choose a private insurance option if they wish. Several states in the U.S., including California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Vermont, have proposed single-payer state referendums and bills, all of which have failed except for in Vermont. Vermont canceled its plans for a single-payer system in December 2014.
Currently, 17 countries have single-payer healthcare solutions: Norway, Japan, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Sweden, Bahrain, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, and Iceland.