Most people in the United States understand the difficulties in our current health care system. Medicine and procedures are expensive. People go into staggering debt for some treatments. Insurance is cost-prohibitive, but also mandatory under law. A single-payer system is often touted as a solution. But is it the answer?
History of health insurance in America
Typically, health care costs have always been born by individuals. In our capitalistic economic system, the government is not intended as a provider of services such as health care to its citizens. In order to obtain medical care, people would work, save their money and pay out of pocket for expenses.
The Depression-era created the health insurance industry
In the 1920s and 1930s, advances in medical care resulted in greater expenses. Some of the New Deal policies of FDR, such as social security, ushered in the concept of government-provided health care, such as Medicare. Currently, Medicare provides health care for those over 65, and to certain younger people with disabilities.
Single-payer health care systems defined
While the U.S. began having new programs to pay for health care, it never adopted a single-payer approach. Politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren advocate moving to this system. Single payer is a system that is managed and provided by one entity, such as the government. You can call it socialized medicine. In this system, the government taxes citizens, then redistributes a portion of this tax revenue to fund medical services for all.
Single-payer sounds ideal, but there are several concerns
Many people advocated for single-payer since it eliminates the profit motive behind health insurers. The pros include universal coverage and a healthier population. The cons include significantly higher taxes and concerns about a reduction in quality due to lack of competition. Some believe that a centralized system of health care would cause great delays in care, too.
Medicare for all may be difficult to achieve because of existing insurance companies
Regardless of the negatives, one major stumbling block to universal coverage under a single-payer system is the existence of many insurance companies and the system that has developed over the past 100 years. Switching to Medicare for all would be abrupt and would likely cause loss of jobs for the many who are employed in the private insurance industry.