Medicare isn’t a Single Payer System because Medicare would be one insurer of many who would pay for supplies, medicine and services. There would still be Aetna, Anthem, Blue Shields and Crosses (and companies licensing that name) and many others with negotiated rates and prices that they’d pay on a list. The administrata would remain in place.
Single-payer is a term used to describe a type of financing system. It refers to one entity acting as administrator, or “payer.” In the case of health care, a single-payer system would be setup such that one entity—a government run organization—would collect all health care fees, and pay out all health care costs. In the current US system, there are literally tens of thousands of different health care organizations—HMOs, billing agencies, etc. By having so many different payers of health care fees, there is an enormous amount of administrative waste generated in the system. (Just imagine how complex billing must be in a doctor’s office, when each insurance company requires a different form to be completed, has a different billing system, different billing contacts and phone numbers—it’s very confusing.) In a single-payer system, all hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers would bill one entity for their services. This alone reduces administrative waste greatly, and saves money, which can be used to provide care and insurance to those who currently don’t have it.
The attention to the Supreme Court deliberations on the Affordable Care Act is an unfortunate distraction since, regardless of the outcome, intolerable levels of uninsurance, undersinsurance, and unaffordability will still be with us. We need to replace the Affordable Care Act with single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for all.