I've gotten a few questions about this and thought I'd post my further thoughts on how to respond to this common conservative line:
1. There is no realistic health reform proposal from any presidential candidate or, for that matter, any mainstream politician for "socialized" medicine. "Socialized medicine" means the government runs all hospitals and employs most physicians and other healthcare providers. No one is proposing this reform. Not only that, but there is no realistic plan on the table for having Americans join a government-run health plan that sets prices and pays private doctors and hospitals as happens in countries like Canada or Japan.
2. No wealthy Western country – all of which deliver better healthcare at half the price or less than we do – has a system of truly "socialized medicine." They all use some combination of public and private healthcare. Even in England – which does have almost a completely socialized system of government run health clinics and hospitals – private health insurance, private doctors, and private hospitals are available. Other countries like Germany and Australia use a mix of public insurance and private, usually employer-based insurance to cover everyone. There is just more regulation on insurers and a guarantee that everyone will be able to afford coverage.
3. Because large majorities of Americans who get their current health coverage through their employer are pretty happy with that coverage and want to keep it, the health reform plan from Democratic nominee Barack Obama does exactly that. This and similar federal proposals expand choice by giving Americans a choice of affordable private health plans to choose from – the same plans available to members of Congress. They also expand public programs for lower income people and ban the insurance companies from charging people more for being older or having pre-existing conditions. This is about as far away as you can get from "socialized medicine" or a "government-run health plan."
4. The most successful state-led efforts to expand coverage absent federal reform have used a similar mixed strategy. People happy with their current plans can keep that coverage while new affordable options are offered both through public plans and the private market. Small business coverage is subsidized and there is often a particular focus and expanding public programs to guarantee coverage to all children.