Single-Payer vs Universal Healthcare: What You Need to Know

For those new to the insurance market or those who just need a little more education, the term "single-payer healthcare" can be confusing. Bernie Sanders has recently been rounding up democratic support for his version of a single-payer healthcare system, prompting the question, what is that? Single-payer healthcare is a system in which one entity - the government - pays for medical bills. Think of, for example, Medicare. This system relies more heavily on taxes and less so on disposable income, which means republicans won't like it. Single-payer healthcare also requires less from private insurance companies because it takes away a certain degree of financial control. They can still act as agents that facilitate health care between a citizen and the government, however, so they aren't rendered unnecessary under single-payer. Democrats point out that private insurance companies shouldn't have the financial means, nor the desire, to cover health care for millions of people and that our reliance on private insurance creates healthcare inequality.

So how is single-payer healthcare different from universal healthcare? They certainly sound similar enough in promise. Universal healthcare in and of itself is a problematic term. It essentially means a system in which every citizen has healthcare but it does not espouse a particular way to guarantee this. The upside? This means that single-payer and universal healthcare could go hand in hand, single-payer being a way to ensure universal access for all. The downside? Republicans can stand up and say they are in favor of universal healthcare when what they really mean is that anyone can buy healthcare; that doesn't mean it is affordable and accessible to every American.

However, we shouldn't be hasty to jump on board the single-payer train without thinking through the steps. Single-payer healthcare is ultimately a more widespread and efficient healthcare system that would lover costs for millions of Americans, but even those Americans who are for more accessible healthcare won't be happy with the increase in taxes necessary to put this in place. That's the crutch Republicans and moderates will use to try to slow down the single-payer Bernie train. That's why it is paramount that we understand what these terms actually mean so that we know who to listen to and why they're making their argument. As always, step 1 is to stay informed.

Greer Clem