I don’t know what single payer is!

All developed world countries except for the United States offer their citizens high quality health care with affordable out of pocket costs. They do so using a single payer system or a system that is functionally very similar to single payer.

In 2015, when Bernie Sanders announced his intention to run for president, his campaign’s centerpiece proposal was Medicare for All. He also authored a Medicare for All bill in 2017. This popular proposal was cosponsored by 17 other Senators.

Single payer, improved Medicare for all, improved Badgercare for all, improved Medicaid for all–these are the same thing. Badgercare is the name of Medicaid in Wisconsin. The idea is to have a single health insurance program with comprehensive benefits that everyone is eligible for. This is called a single payer system, and it could be created by making Medicare or Badgercare–programs for which only certain people are eligible–universal programs everyone is eligible for. In Wisconsin, we could make a single payer system by improving Badgercare and making it universal; in the entire United States, we could make a single payer system by improving Medicare and making it universal. “Improved Medicare for all” is the most common phrase to describe this idea, but it is the same thing as “single payer,” “improved Badgercare for all,” and “improved Medicaid for all.”

Medicare is a government-run health insurance program that is available for Americans age 65 or older. People who are enrolled in Medicare really, really like it. We want to make everyone eligible for Medicare–not just people who are 65 or older. Medicare does have some problems, but we want to take what people like so much about Medicare and extend it to everyone, as well as fix Medicare’s existing problems.

People like Medicare because their medical bills are usually affordable and nearly every doctor and hospital accepts Medicare. People with Medicare rarely have to delay needed medical care or forego necessary medications because they can’t afford them.

Currently, over 300,000 people in Wisconsin have no health insurance at all. Extending health insurance to all of these people sounds like a very expensive proposition. However, this is not the case because Medicare and Badgercare are much more efficient than private insurance. If we look at all the health care spending in the entire state–including not only what the government spends through Medicare and Badgercare, but also what businesses spend on health insurance for their employees and what ordinary people pay to their insurance companies and health care providers–it would be much cheaper to cover everyone with Medicare or Badgercare than it would be to cover some people with Medicare and Badgercare, while everyone else has private insurance. A Medicare- or Badgercare for all system would still be cheaper than our current system even if it included the 300,000+ people in Wisconsin who have no health insurance–people private insurers have no plan to provide life-saving coverage.

I don’t think this could ever happen!

All other developed countries have universal health care systems, but a lot of people profit off the current system and would be unwilling to give up those profits without a fight. These people can write large checks to politicians to influence them to vote down single payer bills.

But no amount of money can buy votes. If we all talk to a few people about single payer, and those people talk to a few more people about single payer, pretty soon all the voters in Wisconsin will be demanding that their elected officials create a single payer system. If elected officials in Madison are afraid of losing their seat if they don’t help create a single payer system, they will defy their corporate donors and side with their constituents. And if they don’t, we can nominate someone who supports single payer to run against them in their next election. This is how we will win single payer for Wisconsin and for the United States.

But this can only happen if we all work together to educate the entire state–even people who don’t know what single payer is or who don’t yet think single payer is a good idea–about what is at stake and how single payer can help.

Tragically, people die, become disabled, go bankrupt, and otherwise suffer needlessly for lack of health insurance. Over 300,000 people in Wisconsin are one accident or serious illness away from tragedy. Yet even people with health insurance are having trouble affording life-saving medications and necessary medical care, or being pushed into financial ruin by unaffordable medical bills.

That’s why we need your help! We can win a healthy future for Wisconsin, but only if people like you step up to the plate. You can learn more surprising facts about single payer on our frequently asked questions page, and then find out about joining the movement or hosting an event.