Key Design Components and Considerations for Establishing a Single-Payer Health Care System
Congressional interest in substantially increasing the number of people who have health insurance has grown in recent years. Some Members of Congress have proposed establishing a single-payer health care system to achieve universal health insurance coverage. In this report, CBO describes the primary features of single-payer systems, as well as some of the key considerations for designing such a system in the United States.
Establishing a single-payer system would be a major undertaking that would involve substantial changes in the sources and extent of coverage, provider payment rates, and financing methods of health care in the United States. This report does not address all of the issues that the complex task of designing, implementing, and transitioning to a single-payer system would entail, nor does it analyze the budgetary effects of any specific bill or proposal.
About 29 million people under age 65 were uninsured in an average month in 2018, according to estimates by CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. Although a single-payer system could substantially reduce the number of people who lack insurance, the change in the number of people who are uninsured would depend on the system’s design. For example, some people (such as noncitizens who are not lawfully present in the United States) might not be eligible for coverage under a single-payer system and thus might be uninsured. This report uses the term “universal coverage” to characterize systems in which virtually all people in an eligible population have health insurance.