13 July 2007

Universal Health ¹ Socialized Medicine

A Plea for clarity and precision in verbiage:

Universal Healthcare: a system in which every person has access to and funding for medical services. Can be publicly funded, privately funded, or most commonly, a hybrid.

Socialized Medicine: a system in which medical services are furnished directly by the government. Typically involves government ownership of clinics and hospitals and public employment of providers. May exist on its own or in a parallel structure with private medicine (e.g., the VA).

Please note that the terms are not interchangeable, and that even the more radical proposals being floated do not approach the level of Socialized Medicine. In fact, most rely heavily on involvement of the private sector. Even the bete noir, Single Payer, Medicare-for-All, is not true socialized medicine. It is a government monopsony with all the attendant drawbacks, but is only public funding of a private healthcare delivery system.

On that note, there is a pretty good breakdown of the presidential candidates' health care plans over at the Huffington Post.

Thank you for your attention,
Your friendly neighborhood semantician.


  1. I'd go one step further, and call single-payer "socialized insurance," as the payer pays for care, but the actual medicine is practiced by private physicians and hospitals for the most part under single-payer.

  2. I've taken to using socialized medicine to refer to anything other than paying the doctor a chicken when he makes a house call. Your distinction between socialized medicine and national healthcare is an intellectually honest one. But, I frankly think ring wing scare tactics are in sharp decline now. If they want to call providing healthcare for children socialized medicine, let them. Ditto for funding healthcare for the working poor. Everyone wants the broken system fixed and I don't like mislabeling liberal plans for making the country better will be as effective as it has been.

  3. "Everyone wants the broken system fixed and I don't [think]mislabeling liberal plans for making the country better will be as effective as it has been.

  4. Yay clarity! I think I'll start referring people to this post. Or maybe set up a huge banner ad on my site directed here.

  5. Looking through the proposals the most striking feature is the frank disdain that the Republican frontrunners seem to have for this issue. On the other hand some of the Democrat's proposals, though heavier on the details, seem to be fluff: "Require experts to testify before filing malpractice" by John Edwards. C'mon, John, you expect me to buy into that?

  6. I think John Edwards believe he would have won his cases with experts testifying. I think he believes he was right.

  7. Ridiculous. Of course universal coverage = socialized medicine.

    You can play semantic games, but you will have the same identical waiting lists, heavy handed government intrusion, low pay for physicians, demoralization, obsolete technology, loss of freedom of choice, ad nauseum.


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