Single-payer not same as socialized medicine

By James Garb, M.D.
Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.), April 16, 2017

While I wholeheartedly support Carl Yingling’s desire for universal single-payer health care (“Americans need socialized medicine,” Letters, April 11), it’s important not to conflate that with “socialized medicine.”

The term socialized medicine is about care delivery, and means that all health care providers and hospitals work for the government, which would control how and where care is delivered; I’m not aware of anyone advocating that. The only “socialized” health care in America is the veterans health system. Anything beginning with the word “socialized” is a nonstarter for most Americans.

Alternatively, single-payer is about insurance, and means replacing our inefficient, costly patchwork system of competing private insurance with a nonprofit program (expanded Medicare) that would save more than $500 billion per year, enough to pay for privately provided universal health care, while eliminating copays and deductibles. It would help contain rising health care costs through streamlined administration, bulk purchasing and global budgeting.

Medicare has low administrative overhead and high approval ratings. Instead of covering only the oldest, sickest among us, expanded Medicare would be strengthened by bringing younger, healthier people into the pool, lowering the overall cost per member.

Mr. Yingling is correct that most industrialized countries have universal single-payer health care, and that should be our goal as well.