Some years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor regarding the meaning of single payer health insurance.  I recently read of a politician who erroneously conflated “Medicare for all” (one way to implement single payer health insurance) with socialized medicine.  I feel the need to once again explain what single payer health insurance is.  

Single payer insurance refers to the way health insurance is funded.  It is not socialized medicine.  Socialized medicine occurs when the government owns the entire health care system.  The US Veterans Administration health system is an example.  The VA owns and operates all hospitals and clinics in the system, and employs all personnel, including doctors and nurses. 

With single payer health insurance, the government is the exclusive insurer.  Doctors work independent of the government and bill for their services.  Hospitals are also independent.  No one gets a free ride–the best and most successful doctors and hospitals will earn incomes in proportion to the amount and quality of the work they do.  The free market is intact.

There are many and varied challenges to implementing single payer health insurance in the US.  The supposed threat of “socialized medicine” is not one of them. 


  1. Susan says:

    Good clarification – so much fearmongering out there about this topic

  2. Janet Forrer says:

    Yeah! small businesses need single payer. JF

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