Margaret Flowers Makes the Continuing Case for Single-Payer Reform

healthcareDuring the summer, Dick and I had an opportunity to sit down with a group of physicians, nurses, and healthcare activists to discuss the single-payer healthcare option. Like most Americans, we didn’t have a clear understanding of the distinction between the public option and single-payer healthcare. We came away from that discussion believing that the only solution to the national healthcare crisis in this country is single-payer.

Margaret Flowers, who is a proponent and spokesperson for single-payer, allowed us to capture some of her words on video tape. If her name sounds familiar, you may remember that she was carted off to jail a few months ago for courageously speaking out at a “public” forum.  She had the audacity to ask Sen. Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee if they would allow an advocate for a single-payer national health plan to have a seat at the table? For this, they called the police and had her arrested.

But this didn’t stop her from organizing a grass roots response to what is being called the “health care debate”. You see, Margaret Flowers is a pediatrician and she is the Physicians for a National Health Program Congressional Fellow. In this role, she champions the single-payer cause on Capital Hill, speaking before congressional representatives on behalf of physicians, nation-wide, who understand the need for single-payer.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) is a non-profit research and education organization of 17,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance. (Wikipedia has the number of PNHP membership at 14,000 but the PNHP website lists the membership at 17,000)

According to PNHP’s website, the United States spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care. Yet we still have 45 million Americans without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

Research done by the PNHP reveals that the underlying cause for the crisis in healthcare coverage in the U.S. is private insurance.  They have found that private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. PNHP’s solution would be to streamline payments through a single nonprofit payer.  According to PNHP, this would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

Listen as Dr. Flowers talks about the difference between the public option and the single-payer option:

–Sharon Kyle


  1. says

    Single Payer is by far the best path, actually the only path. The pitch and claim for the Public Option is “Keeping the insurance companies honest.” Really? If I break the law I get prosecuted, fined, and jailed, that simple – do the crime – pay the time or the fine. That should keep them honest. Congress passes laws, and if they violate those or cheat they are out of the game.
    The second pitch for the Public Option is cost control. According to the President, if you hate what you have you are stuck, in other words, the PO is nothing more than a tax subsidized high risk/low income health care subsidy, and like Medicare – a limited admission club.
    The rest of us, like me, are thrown to the wolves.
    If the true purpose of the PO was to control costs it could be done with a pen stroke by declaring insurance companies a public utility, which they are. Like AT&T or your electric company. If the mighty AT&T and Edison companies can be subjected to this level of price control and regulation, why not the insurance companies?
    Why? The answer, once again: Wall Street greed! Insurance companies and their obscene profits are a big fat part of all our portfolios, including union’s retirement plans, (that is why the AFL/CIO opposes opening the Public Option as a real choice for everyone) including the pension plans of all our cities and states.
    We should all take a good hard look at the portfolios of those states represented by the blue dogs for instance. The refusal of their Senators and Congressional Representatives would then, I am sure, make sense.
    Wall Street, having seen the plunge of Lehman Brothers and AIG has no intention of allowing health insurance companies, the most profitable of them all, to go down the drain. No way. Now maybe this explains why, when 65% of the voting public wants real reform, single payer, nothing happens.
    No maybe about it! This explains why none of the other high power corporations, automakers, Coca Cola, the usually liberal Hollywood studios, just to name a few, and all our Senators, Republican and Democrat and even President Obama, are not demanding single payer. Their executives and their unions, their cities and states, their school boards, also own a piece of the insurance pie
    Do you have a pension fund, mutual fund, an IRA, a 401k? Congratulations, then you too own a piece of a health insurance company.
    Protecting such investments can be a costly trap. Saving comes after necessary expenses, including health insurance; it is 25% of my income. After years of paying an absurd amount of money, if I ever get sick (I will one day, we all do.) — I will go broke in a blink anyway.
    Unless we demand healthcare as a basic civil right, the tangled web is in so many of our pockets it will forever keep us trapped.
    Now, I do not believe that reaching our goal of universal healthcare under a single payer system should take a huge toll on everyone’s savings, so let’s divest.
    Let us all call our brokers, our pension funds administrators, our banks and divest from health insurance companies.
    Call your school board, your union, you mayor, your college, your governor, your employer, and ask them to divest their pensions and investments from all health insurance companies stock.
    Just like they did once with South African gold coins, or today with Sierra Leone conflict diamonds, all major institutions refused to trade in inhumanity, so le’s add the health insurance co. to the list.
    First, make sure you dump your own, then start writing, calling and campaigning within your own communities, unions, cities, schools, etc.
    If we remove the risk of a big down slide for all of us and all of the powerful big investors on Wall Street this strong resistance to single payer health care and the demise of the health care insurance companies will be less of a real financial and practical threat to anyone.

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