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What is Single Payer?

Single-payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents of the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.

The program would be funded by the savings obtained from replacing today’s inefficient, profit-oriented, multiple insurance payers with a single streamlined, nonprofit, public payer, and by modest new taxes based on ability to pay. Premiums would disappear; 95 percent of all households would save money. Patients would no longer face financial barriers to care such as co-pays and deductibles, and would regain free choice of doctor and hospital. Doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676, based on PNHP’s JAMA-published Physicians’ Proposal, would establish an American single-payer health insurance system.

What about Obamacare?

The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) aims to expand coverage to about 30 million Americans by requiring people to buy private insurance policies (partially subsidizing those policies by government payments to private insurers) and by expanding Medicaid. However:

• About 30 million people will still be uninsured in 2023, and tens of millions will remain underinsured.
• Insurers will continue to strip down policies, maintain restrictive networks, limit and deny care, and increase patients’ co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.
• The law preserves our fragmented financing system, making it impossible to control costs.
• The law continues the unfair financing of health care, whereby costs are disproportionately borne by middle- and lower-income Americans and those families facing acute or chronic illness.

This handy chart compares single payer and the ACA.

Ready to take action?

Let Congress know they should support single payer. Click here to send an editable letter in support to your representative.

For other steps you can take in support of single payer, check out our Get Active page.

More questions?

Over the past two decades, peer-reviewed research by PNHP leaders framed the debate on health care and focused it on the need for fundamental reform. Our proposals detail what a single-payer system in the U.S. could look like.

Further information is available on our Single Payer Resources and FAQ pages.