How single-payer health care works, in 2 minutes
People have really strong opinions on single-payer
healthcare. It could be the silver bullet that fixes our healthcare system, or it could
be…. But most people don’t even know what single-payer means. So let’s start with what we have. You can think of the American healthcare system as a series of tubes. We do not have
single-payer healthcare. We have thousands and thousands of payer healthcare. And each
of them typically pay different amounts for the exact same medical service. And that’s
a lot of administrative work. For every three doctors in the United States, you have two
billing staff standing behind them just handling all that paperwork that comes in and out of
a doctors’ office. If you think of a single-payer system, it is just one tube of payments. All
money flows from the government to the doctors. And it’s actually pretty popular elsewhere.
Medicare here in the U.S. is like that — it pays all the healthcare bills for people over
65. But there’s also a catch. When the government is the one paying all the bills, they get
to decide what they will and will not pay for. If the system isn’t funded well enough, if
they haven’t raised enough taxes from their citizens, that could lead to longer wait times
and fewer doctors being available. Vermont right now is trying to set up the very first
single-payer system in the United States. By one estimate, Vermont could save 25 percent.
But it’s also expensive. The state government in Vermont needs to raise $2 billion. That
is a lot of maple syrup. But people really dislike the American healthcare system. It
gets pretty poor marks from Americans. And if you look at neighboring Massachusetts,
their healthcare experiment in 2006 did lead to Obamacare. So if this does work in Vermont,
who knows what could be next.