Single Payer Health Care, Reform or Not?


By: Kevin Qiao

Copy Edited by: Lizbeth Yorio and Dominique Croons

Research Edited by Brett Levenstein

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

While healthcare reform has always been a heated topic, most average Americans do not fully understand its complexities. One topic sometimes brought up is reforming to a single payer system. Under a single payer health care system, the government would pay for health care costs instead of insurance companies. This system is currently used in countries like Canada, England, France and Taiwan. Although these countries implemented their health care structures in different ways, their governments are all responsible for health care costs. On the other hand, the United States has a multi-payer system where healthcare is provided by insurance companies. Given the large amount of debate and studies done on this topic, should we change to a single payer health care system?

What supporters argue

Supporters of a single payer system are often left-wing Americans such as Democrats. They often believe that it would decrease the cost of healthcare by eliminating tactics used by companies to make more money.[1] By having the government run healthcare directly, supporters argue that Americans get better access to healthcare. They also believe that the decreased costs could improve access to care. To back their argument, supporters will often use countries such as Canada and Taiwan as examples of successful implementations. In Canada, a study has shown that there was no long-term decrease in physician pay after reforming. [2] This is usually used as evidence by supporters to show that a single payer system does not lead to a decrease in doctor’s pays. They also bring up Taiwan’s health care system and point out that they would avoid long wait times.[3] Given these benefits, supporters of a single payer system argue that reforming will benefit the U.S.

What opponents believe

Opponents of a single payer health care system are usually right-wing Americans such as Republicans. They often argue that the system would decrease physician pay.[4] They believe that this would lead to a shortage of doctors and decrease the quality of care, particularly with specialty care. Opponents also frequently mention the long wait times for hip replacements in Canada as examples of the shortcomings of a single payer system. They also argue that the system would be economically unsound. Certain studies have analyzed the economic feasibility of a single payer system and found that the decrease in health care premiums would not balance the increases in taxes needed to support a single payer system. In addition, opponents believe that it is economically impossible to balance quality and quantity. They cite a study that examined the economics of a single payer system and found that it was ineffective at delivering quality that will always satisfy customer demands. [5] Using these arguments, opponents argue that the U.S. should not switch to a single payer system.

My conclusion

In the end, I believe that a single payer system will be better than the current system but only if it can imitate other successful implementations. These implementations could avoid problems that are often associated with single payer systems such as doctor shortages and declining quality of care. In addition, a successfully implemented single payer system could be able to improve access to primary care for everyone regardless of social status. In the end, the challenge would be to design a system that could reap the benefits, while avoiding the associated problems.

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