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Single-Payer Healthcare Pros and Cons

A Simple Explanation of the Arguments For — and Against — Single-Payer Health Care

If it isn't clear by now, health care in the US is a deeply complex issue. Though several millions of people have benefited from Obamacare, not everyone is happy with the law. That's part of the reason a single-payer healthcare system continues to grow increasingly popular, primarily among liberals, as a potential viable option. However, like any program, it has its pros and cons that could influence how you feel about such a system.

A single-payer program means that a single public agency, like the government, handles all aspects of healthcare financing. Private hospitals and doctors, however, still handle providing care to people.

The Pros of Single-Payer Health Care

  • Everyone gets insurance: In this system, everyone is eligible for insurance — no matter your employment status or age.
  • Preexisting conditions are no longer a worry: Since everyone gets insurance, you can't be denied coverage based on any preexisting condition.
  • One insurance plan for all: A big complaint about Obamacare is how confusing it can be to pick and choose the right insurance plan. With single-payer, everyone's on the same plan.
  • It'll save everyone money: According to the Physicians For a National Health Program, "95 percent of all households would save money" if America moved to a single-payer system. An article in the Annals of Internal Medicine predicted single-payer would save about $500 billion per year in services such as billing, administration, and "insurance overhead" and save $113 billion on prescription drugs.

The Cons of Single-Payer Health Care

  • It could mean a longer wait time for doctors: Since everyone can see a doctor and get more specialized care, wait times could increase. As the Physicians For a National Health Program explain, though this is a common phenomenon in Canada, it could be solved simply by spending more on health care. However, a 2013 survey from the Commonwealth Fund showed that countries that have single-payer, like the United Kingdom, can get same-day or next-day appointments.
  • A lower quality of care: A common debate around the single-payer healthcare system is that a single doctor is now responsible for seeing a large amount of patients. Because of this, the doctor might work faster and possibly make more errors.
  • A lack of innovation: Another common argument is that, since insurance will be owned publicly, drug companies will have less of an incentive to create new drugs.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who made single-payer health care a central theme of his presidential campaign, told a group of constituents that he'll introduce his "Medicare For All" plan in September. It most likely won't pass, but it's worth knowing what single-payer could mean for the country as it gains momentum.

Image Source: Getty / ROBYN BECK
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