We interrupt a regularly scheduled brief to bring you a dissection of healthcare rhetoric. If you’ve been paying any attention to the midterm elections, or just watching/reading/absorbing by osmosis the news in the last few months, you know that healthcare reform is a hot button issue. Pretty much every candidate in the game is talking about it, be it Beto O’Rourke in Texas promising universal healthcare or Bernie Sanders promising medicare for all. Healthcare in general is quite confusing, but I find the terminology around it to be quite muddled. So, I’ve attempted to research and create a cheat sheet of definitions and diagrams to help our readers understand the discussion around healthcare reform in the US.

Healthcare: In general, this is the system that provides mental and physical health services. The United States does not have any universal healthcare system, rather it is called a “hybrid” system which is both public (owned and operated by the government) and private (typically for-profit companies owned and operated by a board of directors). These medical care companies (like hospitals or private practices owned by physicians) vary immensely, but most work with insurance companies to assist with medical billing and offsetting the upfront cost of care and government programs to help with financially offsetting the cost of those services to people that cannot afford them. There’s also two federal government programs that currently provide healthcare for older and poor people, which are known as medicare and medicaid.


Okay, so know that we have somewhat simplified the phrase healthcare, let’s talk about the problems.

The biggest issues in the United States with the current healthcare system boil down to the exorbitant cost.

The cost is so prohibitive in fact, that a lot of people are not getting any healthcare and so more people are dying of totally preventable illnesses and are just generally more uncomfortable because they do not have access to affordable, reliable medical care. Democrats have proposed changing the hybrid system to a completely public system that is funded through tax dollars. However, not all democrats are created equally and disagree about how public to make the system. This is how we arrived at where we are now, throwing a bunch of different terms around to talk about different degrees of the same type of healthcare reform.

Universal Healthcare


a health care system that ensures basic medical coverage for every citizen of the country


Medicare for All


This system was actually a bill proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, and has become known as the main Democrat stump speech phrase (which only deepens the ambiguity). It is a national system (federal level) ensures total physical and mental medical coverage for every single person regardless of employment status, class, pre existing conditions, or geography. It would ensure that patients would pay into the system directly, not through an alternative private insurance company. The funding from this would come from various tax increases on upper classes.
National Health Plan


This is technically a hybrid healthcare system (orginally based on an insurance system) organized by the government that uses public agencies, private companies, or a combination of both that would provide healthcare to all citizens regardless of class, geography, employment status, preexisting conditions, etc. The term is also used to refer to a single payer, universal system, so it’s important to understand the context of this phrase.
Single Payer This is probably the most technically accurate and specific term, but is used interchangeably with “medicare for all.” It is a federal system that will cover any citizen that pays into the program. There are no premiums, co-pays, or deductibles. However, the government does not own the healthcare facilities or directly employ workers. It merely pays the bills and sets the price for consumers.


“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.”

Socialized Medicine A healthcare system that provides physical and mental health services to citizens. All services are completely owned and operated by the government.




You may be wondering how the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) fits into this. Well, the ACA was a stepping stone to get to the Democratic Party’s (or at least the more progressive democrats) goal of universal healthcare. It established a system so that everyone had to prove access to affordable care in a government regulated marketplace, known as the individual mandate. Additionally, there were many tax changes and benefit subsidies that alleviated the cost of this new burden, and expansions to Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA also prohibited the use of pre-existing conditions as a reason to deny people health insurance. But, it was not completely public, the healthcare system set up by the ACA just ensured that the premiums (payment for health insurance) would be kept minimal for people that had trouble affording healthcare, but it did not legislate very substantial insurance industry reform or much of the private healthcare industry (especially large pharmaceutical companies). Ultimately, it is still very much reliant on a hybrid system of healthcare.

Hopefully this clarifies what candidates, news outlets, and elected officials mean when they use a variety of buzzwords to discuss healthcare. Please keep your eyes and ears open to these terms and how they are used to indicate certain healthcare reform, and learn more accurate definitions as these terms change and include or exclude certain key features.

This Brief was posted by USRESIST NEWS Analyat Sophia Adams;  Contact Sophie@usresistnews.org

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