Why Do We Need Single-Payer?

With a system that is highly dependent on employer-based, for-profit health insurance, millions of Americans have no or inadequate coverage. The patchwork of expensive, unequal insurance plans has contributed to bankruptcy, homelessness, preventable disease, and death.

Inflated insurance and health care costs place unfair demands on businesses and taxpayers. By making high-quality health care for all as cost-effective as possible, a single-payer system meets the health needs of the public and contributes to a healthy economy.

With a single-payer system, we can:

  1. Stop large-scale waste. Billions of dollars spent on insurance now go toward administering multiple plans, packaging and marketing the plans, excessive profits and executive compensation, lobbying for policies that detract from health care, and for campaign donations.

    A single-payer system streamlines administration by having one agency handle all financing and by everyone having the same benefits.  With “everyone in and nobody out”, money will no longer be wasted on marketing, underwriting, and administration of multiple health insurance plans. Health care professionals will no longer incur the cost of dealing with so many different plans, rules, and forms.   
  2. Stabilize costs. Costs are rising at rates far beyond inflation. Charges for health insurance premiums and care vary dramatically and are difficult to justify. Reimbursement for services and supplies is unpredictable. People who cannot afford regular care misuse expensive hospital emergency rooms when problems arise and require more expensive treatment when conditions worsen. The high cost of medical malpractice insurance and the ordering of extra tests due to fear of lawsuits pushes costs up further.

    In a single-payer system, the single-payer agency negotiates fair prices for services, supplies, and pharmaceuticals, using the purchasing power of the entire populace to make care more affordable for all. Preventive care and timely intervention has the potential for keeping health problems from developing or worsening, making the need for expensive treatment less likely. Access to regular care reduces costly use of emergency rooms. With lifelong care assured, payment for potential health care needs is less of an issue in malpractice suits. Smaller settlements could lower the cost of malpractice insurance and the overall price of medical services.
  3. Free patients and doctors to make health care decisions. Insurers impose varying restrictions on the kinds and amount of care covered. Such restrictions interfere with the rights of doctors and patients to choose care based on an individual’s needs. Many insurance plans restrict an individual’s choice of health professionals.

    A single-payer system allows choice of licensed health care professionals and accredited facilities and automatically covers all medically necessary care, with a focus on preventive care. It includes alternatives supported by evidence, including chiropractor and acupuncture services, and gives equal consideration to physical and mental health needs. Decisions on treatment are left to the patients and their doctors.
  4. Maintain an excellent health care delivery network. Emergency rooms and entire hospitals are closing, and doctors are prematurely giving up their practices because financing of health care has become so expensive and frustrating. The number of primary care physicians is in dangerous decline because the services of these doctors are not sufficiently valued and compensated. Health professionals treating patients in under-funded government programs are difficult to recruit and retain.

    In a single-payer system, licensed health care professionals and accredited facilities negotiate fees and budgets and receive timely payment. Their services continue to be part of the valuable network we depend on.
  5. Make the “best health care in the world” available to all in America. While we have the resources—excellent medical schools and research centers, dedicated health care professionals, and the latest technology—our current approach to financing health care skews delivery. It keeps millions of people from being able to contribute responsibly and leaves millions without needed care. The pieces of a potentially excellent system cannot form a coherent whole.

    A single-payer system puts in place the financing mechanism and the cost and quality parameters necessary to achieve sustainable universal health care so that everyone has the care they need when they need it at a price they can afford.