What is Single Payer Healthcare?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2019
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Single payer healthcare is a form of healthcare in which all reimbursements for treatment come from a central fund. This fund is often administered by a government, although it could theoretically be handled by an insurance company as well. Many nations have some form of single payer healthcare, ranging from systems like the British National Health Service to American Medicare. Advocates for this system argue that it is efficient and highly cost effective.

Some people get confused about the difference between single payer healthcare and universal healthcare, especially since these terms are sometimes used interchangeably or in other confusing ways. Universal health care creates coverage for all of the people in an area, whether it be a county, province, state, or even an entire country. However, universal health care is not necessarily run as a single payer system; it may incorporate multiple sources of funding.

One of the major advantages of single payer healthcare is that the single payer can sometimes negotiate better prices for prescription drugs and medical treatment. Single payer systems can also be extremely streamlined, promoting things like preventative care and standardizing their systems to ensure that people receive comparable care no matter where they are, as long as they are covered by the single payer system.


Single payer systems like Medicare cover a very specific group of people; in the case of Medicare, that group is American seniors who fit a number of criteria. People outside of the system are not covered, of course, although they can try to obtain coverage through various insurance companies and other means. In some regions, countries have established universal single payer systems in which every citizen is covered by a government administered health fund. These systems are sometimes called “socialized medicine,” in a reference to the fact that they are controlled by the government.

In some regions, pilot single payer healthcare programs have been established with the hope of eventually expanding them. For example, many areas of the United States have treatment programs for low-income AIDS patients which provide routine checkups and medical care with the use of a central fund which may be established by the regional government or a private organization.

It can be difficult to establish a single payer healthcare plan at first, especially in regions where people are used to a mixture of insurance companies and government-funded health programs. Many insurance companies are also resistant to the concept of single payer healthcare administered by a government, as it would significantly cut down on their profits.



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Single-payer, universal health care, not health insurance is the cost-effective, moral choice for the citizens of the United States. Why pay money, tax money to for profit health insurance companies who deny care to people with "pre-existing conditions" or cancel coverage for exceeding their lifetime coverage amounts? We don't need the middleman who profit off of the sick, injured or dying citizens. Pass HR 676 and SB 703 now!

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