Is ObamaCare Socialism or Socialized Healthcare?

ObamaCare isn’t “socialism“. Under ObamaCare we have a regulated private health care industry that uses a mix of public and private funding. This is best described as a “quasi-private” healthcare system, or more technically, “a quasi-private, regulated, free-market-based insurance and delivery system, that uses subsidization, regulation, and taxation (sort of a mash-up of capitalism, socialism, and corporatism)”.

This is different than the more common single payer system other countries use, or the more market-based system we used in America before Medicare and Medicaid were created by LBJ’s Social Security Amendments of 1965.

The main problem with boiling down American healthcare reform under the PPACA to buzzwords is that terms like socialism only broadly define a philosophical economic/political theory. American politics is much more complicated than this. Below we separate the facts from the myths, and the rhetoric from reality.

The term “socialized medicine” has been thrown around for over a century, typically used by opponents of healthcare reform as a way of scaring people into standing against healthcare reform.

FACT: ObamaCare, like everything we do in America, is a mix of “center left” or “center right” ideas. Those ideas create a uniquely American version of regulated free-market capitalism that aims to create profits for corporations and people, while ensuring access to healthcare.
FACT: Funnily enough, insurance is itself is a group fund (which is pretty “socialist”), be it for profit or not. With that said, the trillions made off the healthcare system for private companies doesn’t exactly scream socialism the philosophy or socialism as presented by the media.

Myth: ObamaCare is Socialism

Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. ObamaCare is a law that regulates key parts of the same quasi-private and regulated healthcare system we had before the law was passed.

Under ObamaCare we have a regulated private health care industry with a mix of public and private funding. This is best described as a “quasi-private” healthcare system.

A pure “socialist” healthcare system would have total public funding and care (or would at least regulate every aspect of funding and care).

Even a single payer system isn’t “socialist” because single payer denotes public funding, not public delivery. In other words not only is the current system not “socialist”, but nothing we have ever really discussed in America, including the more left leaning single payer, is socialist.

Want to learn more about what Socialism actually is? (NOTE: it’s about as far from a talking point as possible, enter the rabbit hole of political theory at your own risk.)

Insurance is Kind of Socialist In the First Place

The truth is insurance is “a collective group fund that mitigates individual risk” in the first place. This means insurance, be it private or publicly funded, is probably the most socialist thing about American healthcare. You could argue that using tax payer funded subsidies or regulations on private industry is “socialist”, but it would be much easier to simply argue that this is just part of our American brand of regulated capitalism.

What people tend to confuse socialism with communism: the idea that everyone is equal on every level and those who work harder shouldn’t be rewarded with “more”. In truth, socialism and communism are distinctly different.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the idea that insurance is a group fund in the first place. No matter how you run that fund, it’s still a single group fund.

Socialism Versus Communism

People often confuse socialism with communism. Communism is more of what we don’t like in America, and what we don’t want. Communism is a collective ownership of everything, with complete government control, and the absence of social classes, states, and money.

Socialism on the other had is a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production. If we apply socialism to healthcare we get single payer (public fund, regulated private care), if we apply communism we would likely get state controlled fund and healthcare delivery system. This is the gist, they are two different things, socialism-lite has a proven track record with common goods like healthcare in other countries, communism has zero success stories so far throughout history.

To make life simple we won’t get into the philosophical ideas behind communism or the different types of communism, but rather just point out that in practice communism has been historically used to create an oligarchical system that was unlike anything we want for our American democracy. Meanwhile socialism, when applied to healthcare, is something most of the other western countries have already implemented without sacrificing their democracy or markets.

Suffice to say, communism is sort of like a radical socialism, and is pretty much the opposite of capitalism. If America is about a balance of powers then neither total free-market or communism should be on the table, but democratic socialism could be.

Right wing-ers in America like to bunch communism and socialism into the same group to attack different political views, but the truth is our brand of governing really just borrows ideas from all over the place to create something uniquely American. If it has a bunch of hyphens in it, like mixed-market-quasi-public funding and delivery, then its a good sign we are on the right track.

Witch hunts are never cool. The more we split apart, the less we focus on the united factor of being American. The truth is rhetoric can be dangerous, this video shows just how dangerous rhetoric and fear can be.

Socialism Versus a Regulated Free-Market

Socialism is a philosophy, a regulated free-market is a completely different idea (and is something that is actually happening in America). A regulated free market is different than socialism because the primary goal is a free market and government (officials elected by the people, in America at least) only regulates when deemed necessary. Important things like money, climate, healthcare, labor laws, discrimination laws, etc are regulated and the rest is left to the free market. Socialism suggests that all things are regulated and controlled by the government and little to nothing is left to the free-market.

Because socialism can go “overboard” if left unchecked, when we discuss it in America we typically discuss it only for the common good (healthcare, education, etc) and then mix it with capitalism. So we could call something like this “Democratic socialism”. The idea that markets, democracy, and strong social programs can all co-exist side-by-side.

Ideally We the People Create Rules to Protect We the People

Ideological labels aside, the point of the Affordable Care Act (and most other like-minded laws) is to regulate private business to protect the majority.

Who wants to play a game without rules? Who wants to play a game where there are no winners? Not anyone we know. America is about nuanced solutions, not extremes. Just because we do something together as a society, doesn’t mean it’s “socialism”… especially when related to healthcare, education, and climate. These things affect all of us and all our families.

It can actually feel good to take on a little extra responsibility to know that 1 in 10 (ish) people you meet on the street now have access to affordable coverage for the first time.

Socialism Is Mostly Just Used as a Buzzword to Turn People Against any Progressive Idea

In the US “socialism” has been used as a buzz word by the right for at least 100 years now. The idea has been purposely lumped in with communism and turned into a dirty word in order to turn people away from any idea that leans to the left like Medicare, Medicaid, Unions, labor laws, ObamaCare, etc. Don’t confuse scary buzzwords with being a good person and taking care of your neighbor. And don’t jump on the “use socialism as a dirty word” band wagon without looking at the damage this term has done throughout US history. Remember it wasn’t long ago we were blacklisting “communists” based on fear over fact.

Myth: ObamaCare Subsidies are a Handout to Lazy people that Don’t Work

Marketplace subsides only help those with incomes between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. To have an income of 100% of the poverty level means your family works hard, contributes to society, and could probably use the extra help. Often people can find someone even in their own family who qualifies for cost assistance programs based on income, often someone you have respect for and don’t have the personal money laying around to take care of yourself.

Persons in
2014 Federal
Poverty Level
100% FPL
138% FPL
CSR* &
Premium Cap
150% FPL
250% FPL
400% FPL
1 $11,670 $16,105 $17,505 $29,175 $46,680
2 $15,730 $21,707 $23,595 $39,325 $62,920
3 $19,790 $27,310 $29,685 $49,475 $79,160
4 $23,850 $32,913 $35,775 $59,625 $95,400
5 $27,910 $38,516 $41,865 $69,775 $111,640
6 $31,970 $44,119 $47,955 $79,925 $127,880
7 $36,030 $49,721 $54,045 $90,075 $144,120
8 $40,090 $55,324 $60,135 $100,225 $160,360
*Medicaid eligibility is different in states that did not expand Medicaid.
Federal Poverty Guidelines are different in Hawaii and Alaska.
*CSR Cost Sharing Reduction subsidy
*PTC or Premium Tax Credits

Also remember, subsidies are based on what you make in that year… not your lifetime. That means that you can do really well, and then need help ten years later because you got hurt or got laid off in a bad economy. The safety net helps people bounce back, the idea isn’t a net you throw over someone to keep them down, it’s supposed to catch them when they fall so they can get back up.

In Conclusion

We could probably go on about why smart and fair rule sets are a good idea for anything from Dungeons and Dragons, to the economy, to football, to healthcare but really all we want to point out is that 1) the Affordable Care Act isn’t “socialism” and 2) the term “socialism” has been used to split our society part into warring factions for over a century and 3) “socialism” probably isn’t what you think it is in the first place.

Don’t get caught up in the rhetoric, flip your mental script and start looking at what the ACA gets right. If we come together as a people we can make a difference and ensure we are all participating in the conversation about how to do a better job at our American brand of quasi-capitalism. The more we get distracted, the more politicians pander, and the less reals solutions we see brought to the table.

At the end of the day if we call everything that favors people or uses regulations or taxes “socialist” we are going to have a long road ahead of us. Stay educated, stay away from talking points, and take a refresher on what the Affordable Care Act actually does and what other programs like single payer really would mean for America.

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Russ on

The Republicans and other detractors of Obamacare should ask themselves that why for years, the US has had the highest government cost per capita for health care of any country, yet it’s citizens are less healthy and have shorter lifespans than any other Western democracy, (the vast majority of who have single payer, government run health care systems). Not to mention being the only nation that lets it’s citizens go bankrupt if they get sick and can’t afford to pay.

It’s not rocket science. The more people who have health care, without having to worry about breaking the bank, the healthier, happier and more productive they will be.

Can’t have that now can we!, say the Republicans, because If the people aren’t worried or paranoid, they may not vote for us again.

As John Adams once quipped, “Facts are stubborn things…..”

Garrett Helvey on

The reason we have shorter life spans and are unhealthier than other countries is because of the way we eat. We are a country digging our graves with our teeth. We eat unhealthy foods, killing us. It’s not about our healthcare on

Amen. I want to say something like it’s our Food and Drugs, but i’m not pointing fingers at the FDA i’m pointing out the obvious cyclical nature of inflation, food quality, and new drug technologies and how that relates to the healthcare industry. If the PPACA just fixed this and nothing else it would have fixed the country. To be fair it did in some way address all these things and that is just the sort of thing that people forget when they argue about the law.

Shawn on

This is a great, simple explanation and discussion that is reasonable. It is nice to see something like this in government, amidst all of the name calling and political fighting that goes on. The explanation of socialism vs regulated capitalism is excellent. This page should be promoted for more people to read.. on

Thanks for the kind words. To be fair we are an independent site. Tell your friends.

whisperingsage on

Political Philosophies Explained in Simple “Two Cow” Terms


You have two cows. The government takes them both and provides you with milk.


You have two cows. The government takes them and sells you the milk.


You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, and then pours it down the drain.


You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.


You have two cows. You sell one, force the other to produce the milk of four cows and then act surprised when it drops dead.


You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point that you must sell them both in order to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow which was a gift from your government.


You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.


You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.


You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?


You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.


You have two cows. The government seizes both and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.


You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.


You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.


You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, then pours the milk down the drain.


You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of >four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.


You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.


You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.


You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


You have two cows but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.


You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.


You think you have two cows, but you don’t know what a cow looks like. You take a nap.


You have 5000 cows, none of which belongs to you. You charge for storing them >for others.


You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.


You have two cows. You turn them loose in the Afghan “countryside” and they >both die. You blame the godless American infidels and the Jews.


You have two cows. You worship them. on

Ideal American Political, Social, Economic Cow Policy:

Everyone has an equal right to own cows. Some start life with cows, some don’t. Those without cows work for those with cows, when people make enough money they can buy their own cows and hire others to milk their cows. Others buy milk and produce cheese and such. Some just worship cows, because hey it’s their right in a free society. Those who profit off of cows pay a tax, also there is a tax on the land, a tax on paying workers, and taxes on pretty much everything. It’s annoying to pay your cow taxes, but ultimately as a cow owner, you still have the freshest leather on the cow block. As we move our way down the cow ownership pyramid we see less fresh leather, but less taxes too. Sure it’s ironic that you wear leather, but humans are complex beings. The right balance of taxes, workers rights, and individual liberty allow us to sustain peace, ensure everyone has a purpose, and ensure everyone has some cheese and a nice glass of milk (even the sick, tired, old, weak, and poor)… And those are just the dairy cows, never mind the bulls and meat cows!

Really writing about the complex rule system that perfectly governs this system is just going to take up a lot of room. We start with one smart document that shows our intentions, then we add to it, over time the tax rules and amendments seem crazy… way do we need so many rules to govern this system of cows? Luckily, democracy… while a slow and messy process… allows us to update our rule-set to meet the needs of a modern day. It will take a constant push forward of science and technology to keep the cows and the cow workers healthy and ensure that people don’t get sick from the milk, or that we don’t destroy the land by over using it.

I could go on. I see why the list above is so big, but I think it’s oversimplified. A good cow society draws smart elements from a number of different philosophies.

Kcarr on

First, regarding the idea that health insurance in general is somewhat of a socialist idea, possibly more so than the ACA, any product bought and sold freely with no government influence whatsoever and be as “free market” as any other product. Health insurance is just a product and can be as free market, facist, communist. Socialist, etc. as the market it is “sold” in.

Now, what we had before was in no way private or free market or anything close to anything along those lines. While the consumer did occasionally have the option to buy or not buy insurance companies were heavily subsidized by the government through tax breaks to allow them to be competitive and even win over direct transactions which would win out much more often than not without government influence.

We were already a long ways from anything resembling free market private health care and the ACA took us further away. When you force either the buyer or the seller to participate in the transaction it is no longer in anyway anything that anyone should logically believe is free market and the ACA does both of these things requiring people to buy health insurance through the mandate and requiring insurance companies to sell to plans it wouldn’t to those it wouldn’t through forcing companies to cover pre existing conditions. Also, it set standards above what most people wanted in a health care plan forcing people to buy and sell plans they otherwise would not. How can any of that be considered a free market interaction.

I personally believe each person should pay for the number of xrays, casts, checkups, abortions, etc. that they personally have, not the average amount that all Americans have adjusted for income plus enough to run the insurance companies and the government programs involved.

Mighty Mouse on

O those pesky entitlements. Speaking of…

“We are all entitled to our own opinions but we are NOT entitled to our own FACTs.”

FACT: We’re almost $20 TRILLION in DEBT … and try as you like, but you cannot BLAME that on the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. By the time Obama leaves office he will have allowed the debt to almost double from the time he took office!

FACT: Ever wonder why we’re always hearing about how Social Security is running out of money … but we never hear about how Welfare is running out of money? And the interesting things is, the first group worked for their money, but second group didn’t!

Here’s a wild concept…
Mandate that every single one of the 430 federal agencies cut 5% of their budget (because we all know they WASTE at least that much) — and take that money to fund a new healthcare system for the underserved and uninsured and simply call it the RCA … Responsible Care Act.

And then the government can just stay the fuk out of all the other peoples business.

Just a thought. on

Good points, no counterpoints of which there are many, but good points. Always more work to be done.

Keith on

Wow, this whole site is nothing more than pro Obama rhetoric. One has to wonder why a page like this is here if he is so honest. Why defend if you are so truthful. It may not be socialism. But it is still wrong.

Paul on


The X trillion dollar health industry still needs to exist, liberals wanted a public option and single payer, we compromised with industry and conservatives to come up with the ACA. You write in all caps complaining, but what on the day when you need care and can’t afford it? Will you change your tune?

Kevom on

Autocratic Redistribution of Income. I call that Socialism. on

Fine, by the measure that all taxation is socialism, it is socialism… but by the measure that it is a market-based system it is captilisim. Hence it is quasi-capitalist and mixed market. If it was socialism it would be much much easier, if it was capitalism it would be way more exclusive.

Great America on

This article is dead wrong and has been proven so. Obama Care is the the epitome of socialist healthcare system that is failing. on

Ok, but… no to everything you said.

I study political philosophy, and from a historic and philosophical standpoint, ObamaCare is not socialism by any reasonable definition (at most it has a few just barely socialist aspects).

From a historic standpoint, what you say is really off-based. If you want to throw that term around, you should at least do a little research on the many different forms of socialism and how it is different from other systems.

Here is a starter kit. Read this,, then come back to me and tell me again how ObamaCare is socialism (start with chapter III, the ACA’s mixed-market subsidization doesn’t even meet the “errand boy John Stuart Mill version of Petty-Bourgeois Socialism” Marx makes fun of).

The Affordable Care Act is a mixed-market solution to healthcare based on the mandate system that relies heavily on private insurance and uses taxes, tax credits, and tax breaks. Not even Medicare is a truly socialist system, Medicaid probably comes the closest… but generally, America is so “not socialist” even that isn’t really true.

The only person in history that would probably call the ACA socialism is Ludwig Von Mises… but I mean, he called everything socialist, so not sure how much that means.

Calling ObamaCare “socialist” (insert Rush Limbaugh voice) is “a right-wing talking point meant to make things overly simple for a group of working-poor fighting for interests of an elite class which are not their own (insert Rush Limbaugh voice again; this time, just for fun). But really though, read the Communist Manifesto, then you’ll know what the conversation is about and why actual Communism isn’t great, but why we can’t just lump everything but a pure free market under one divisive term that implies both political affiliation and a metric for morality in one little mindless quip.

Or, forget all that, and just research single payer and universal healthcare. There are better mixed systems than the mixed-market solution we have, for sure!

Handone on

As you can see w/ the Govt actions in 202. Dems have gone nuts trying to make America A Socialist Country. Obama Care is a step towards Socialism. when the Govt. has it’s nose in every aspect of peoples lives.
Try Medicare, it’s the worst. I am Blind due to Stargdarts Disease & Medicare because they don’t cover vision. No Dental.
Doctors won’t accept Medicare Patients. Now of their doctors feel you should take a medication so they can fill the contract of scripts of medication that they have over stocked, even tho you dont have, lets say high chlorestoral, if you don’t take it anyway you loose your Medicare. Giving the Govt, full decision making over your Medical needs & ability to influence or black mail you & your Doctor both, not to mention their Doctors, do what they tell them to do, gives them full control to eliminate you. For fathers said keep the Govt. small & you & the state you live in make decisions, on education, health care, just about every 3 letter Govt. agency should be a State agency , not a Federal one. Big Govt leads to Socialism, then Communism.
That is the plan right now the Demoncrats, Rothschild’s Illuminati Cabel, w/ the Jesuits, & the Zionist together, started their evil plan when they created in every country Fed.Reserve to enslave us & the world. Then they plan to bring in the Anti-Christ via the Vatican….New World Order, Agenda 21-30. All you have to do to see the truth is type it in the search box…Then read it.So to ****with Obama care. My deductible was 3,500.00 my SSDI was 860.00, it’s cheaper to pay the tax fine, which is illegal for, Medical is not taxed it’s against the Constitution, but so was Obama., he was against Christianity too. BAD BAD Usurper. Vote Trump & keep America a Constitutional Republic…We are not a democracy, we have a Democracy election system,look that up while your reading. on

In my opinion, although there are elements of truth in there, there is a lot of negativity and opinion that I would argue is missing the truth.