As we start the day, we’re dealing with many terms that may not quite make sense from the weekend regarding health care. I thought I’d quickly define these terms so that we can look at what’s being said overall with a little bit more of an idea of what they might be talking about.

Single payer means that the government would be the only source of health insurance coverage in the country. It’s what some refer to that other countries have as socialized medicine. Now, there’s a misnomer about single payer coverage, and I intentionally gave the definition I did because that’s what everyone wants you to believe.

The truth is that in every country where there’s single payer coverage, there are other insurance options that can be paid for, and are paid for. For instance, in England, sometimes a person might have to wait months for a procedure on the single payer system. If they happened to have a great job, or did have a great job with great benefits, paying for insurance allows them to see their doctors sooner and get treatment sooner.

If you saw the movie Sicko, it showed how many people can just walk in, get services, and walk out. Well, that’s not exactly true. It does happen in many areas, just like it does in Canada. However, in other areas, where the population is much higher, it doesn’t work all that well. That’s how insurance companies have survived in those countries; they offer a better option, and some people are willing to pay for it. So, this proves that if the U.S. went with a single payer option, there would still be other insurance companies around.

Public option basically says that the government creates its own insurance plan, and people have the option of signing up with the government’s plan versus signing up with other plans. The way it’s been touted, it would encourage businesses to discontinue their health plans because they could just tell the employees to sign up with the government’s plan, and all would be right or wrong with the world. Employers could even pay patients to participate with the government program, and thus regular insurance companies would go out of business. That’s what’s being said.

Public option would work just like Medicare does now; as a matter of fact, Congress, in talking about it, continually talks about using Medicare as the basis for setting up the program. It would offer lower premiums and deductibles for most procedures, and has a pretty good inpatient package. Of course, many things would have to be altered, but we won’t get into that because it’s not germane to our present conversation.

If the government went with a public option, insurance companies wouldn’t die out, just like they wouldn’t with a single payer option. What they would do is compete in rates with the federal government, probably offering more services for a slightly higher price. But they wouldn’t go away.

There are both benefits and problems with either of these ideas. But I’ll save that for another day; this one was just to help define terms, and eliminate a bit of the myths that we’ve all been hearing. Knowing the terms helps us to consider the health care debates with a bit more knowledge.