How Would A Single Payer Health Care System Work? The Medicare-For-All Bill Pushes For One

By Caroline Burke
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The majority of news coverage on Wednesday was focused on Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress — but something else happened that was also significant. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, along with over 100 house co-sponsors, introduced a "Medicare for all" bill which would lead to sweeping reform of the health care industry. So for those wondering how a single payer health care system would work, this proposal seeks to answer that question.

First things first: a single-payer health care system is generally a synonym for "Medicare for all." Per the organization Physicians for a National Health Program, it simply defines a system in which a single agency or organization (often the government) controls health care financing, but the execution of that health care is still carried out privately. In other words, the government might be the health care "provider," but you would still go to your local doctor to get treatment, hypothetically.

A majority of the candidates in the democratic presidential field currently support a full or partial version of single-payer health care, according to a report by NPR and a report by The Washington Post. The most recent bill seeks to transition to a single-payer, government-funded health care program in the next two years, according to CNBC.

Of course, those two years are dependent upon when (or if) this bill ever gets passed, since it's unlikely to do so in a Republican-controlled Senate. But if it does get passed, here are some of the most significant changes that will take place in the health care system for Americans.

Per The New York Times, the bill would eliminate the current structure of premiums, co-payments, and deductibles, and new benefits would be added to a standard coverage plan, like dental and vision (which are usually added at additional cost in the current system). Additionally, via CNBC, the single-payer plan would cover the cost of prescription drugs, mental health care, substance abuse care, and maternal care.

But there's one specific aspect of this new bill that will particularly transform the current system: via The New York Times, Jayapal's Medicare bill would aim to change the payment system to hospitals. Instead of paying hospitals per treatment, a designated committee or board would calculate a "global budget" for each hospital, from which the hospital could use those funds to treat patients accordingly.

The publication notes that this is how most Canadian provinces run their health care systems. Still, The New York Times says that this would be a massive change from the way the medicare system runs, currently, in the United States.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Jayapal explained her intent with introducing such a sweeping reform bill. Via NBC, she said, "We intend to make sure that Americans across this country know that we are standing up and fighting for them and for health care to be a right and not a privilege."

A day later, while introducing the bill on Wednesday, Jayapal declared, “Is this a bold and ambitious plan? Damn straight it is. Because it has to be." Per CNBC, she then went on to say, “whether you’re rich or poor, you should have the same quality of guaranteed health care.”