Socialized healthcare is when the government provides all the healthcare. Under Obamacare, the government gives some money to some people so that they can buy insurance from private companies. (It does more than that, but that’s the gist.)
There’s lots of ways healthcare could be more socialized than Obamacare. For some perspective, here’s a list of ways we could do healthcare from “Definitely socialized healthcare” down to “totally free market healthcare.”
Definitely socialized healthcare
The government might pay all the bills, provide all the doctors, run all the hospitals and clinics, develop all the drugs, set all the health guidelines and standards.
Mostly socialized healthcare
The government covers all the costs of treatment, surgeries, doctor visits, etc. Hospitals are funded with taxpayer money (like public schools), which also means doctor and nurse salaries are taxpayer-funded. Hospitals might buy equipment and medicine from private companies.
Not really socialized healthcare: the government picks up the bill
The government pays for all healthcare so that nobody has to go without it. Hospitals and doctors are not directly funded by taxpayers, though the government does use tax money to buy healthcare for everybody. Drug companies and medical equipment makers are private or nonprofit companies. This is kind of like if letting everyone sign up for Medicare (the government program that makes sure older people can afford healthcare).
Note: this is what many of the most progressive voices on healthcare want right now. It is still not socialized healthcare.
Free market healthcare with a public option
Private companies and hospitals provide all the healthcare. They charge enough money that many people can’t afford it without health insurance. So, people buy health insurance so that they can get healthcare when they need it.
Since private insurance is expensive, the government offers a “public option.” You know how you could go to a private school, but it’s real expensive and so most people go to public school? Same thing. If you can’t afford private insurance, you could still get public insurance. There might also be public clinics and hospitals. This was going to be part of Obamacare, but it was stripped out.
Regulated free market healthcare
The government passes provides some money so that most people can afford to buy health insurance from private companies. They use that health insurance to get healthcare from private companies, hospitals, and doctors. Some people can’t afford it even with government help.
This is pretty much what Obamacare tries to do (along with several thousand pages of detail and nuance). The government regulates the private insurance market to make sure you can actually get insurance, and that that insurance doesn’t totally bankrupt you. It also provides money to people who don’t make much so they can afford insurance. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.
Free market healthcare with government oversight
Healthcare’s pretty much privately owned and run, but the government makes some laws about how you can’t pee in a vial and say, “This cures cancer and I’ll give it to you for 16 payments of $99.95.”
Totally free market healthcare
Anyone can pee in a vial and say, “This cures cancer and I’ll give it to you for 16 payments of $99.95,” and that’s totally fine. The government doesn’t do anything to regulate, protect consumers, control prices, etc.