As you may
be aware, three PNHP physicians, along with five other single-payer
advocates, were arrested Tuesday after speaking up in a dignified way
for single payer at the beginning of a Senate Finance Committee "public
roundtable discussion" on health reform.
Margaret Flowers, Carol Paris, Pat Salomon and the others took this
extraordinary and courageous step after it became clear that Sen. Max
Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Committee, was determined to disregard
the tens of thousands of requests - via letters, e-mails, phone calls,
faxes and personal visits - urging him to invite a supporter of
single-payer health reform to the discussion, i.e. to put single payer
"on the table."
Flowers' statement about why she and the others took this action, which
carries a potential six-month jail sentence, appears
below. Her subsequent appearance on MSNBC television's Ed Show with
host Ed Schultz is remarkable. We urge you to watch it
here. Our news release about the event also appears
group's action has resulted in an outpouring of support for them from
all over the country and an increase in media interest in single-payer
national health insurance, with articles appearing in the online Wall
Street Journal, the Washington Times, the Associated Press, Politico,
the Congressional Quarterly, and the Kaiser network, among other places.
It also resulted in a surge in radio and television talk show
Tuesday, May 12, the Senate Finance Committee is holding its third and
last roundtable on health reform. PNHP has formally submitted the names
of two outstanding physicians, Drs. Marcia Angell and Steffie
Woolhandler, to testify as expert witnesses. As of this hour (Friday
afternoon), however, no single-payer supporters have been invited. (You
can call Sen. Baucus' office in Washington and urge him to extend the
invitations at 202-224-2651, or e-mail him
the same time that the hearing is taking place inside, a demonstration
of physicians, nurses and other supporters of single payer will take
place outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington at 9:30
a.m. The group will gather outside the main entrance of the building at
1st Street and Constitution Avenue NE. If you live in the vicinity and
can attend, please do. If you're a physician, wear your white coat. (All
participants are encouraged to wear black in remembrance of those who
have died because they lacked health insurance.)
prefer to seek a place inside the hearing, we recommend arriving at the
hearing room (106 Dirksen) by 7:30 a.m. The hearing will begin at 10
more information, contact Dr. Margaret Flowers via e-mail at
email@example.com or call her at
Secondly, on Wednesday, May 13, a "Single-Payer Solidarity Rally" will
take place in Washington as part of National Nurses Week. The activity
will begin at 11:45 a.m., when participants gather at the Washington
Court Hotel. They will then march to a rally at Upper Senate Park (near
the Union Station Metro Stop), which will take place from noon until 2
the charge is the
California Nurses Association which expects 500 nurses to lobby and
rally for single payer in the nation's capital. Joined by the
Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, of which PNHP is a
part, we want to use this opportunity to make the single-payer message
loud and strong for our legislators to hear. Wear your white coat!
Speakers will include Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT); Rep. John Conyers Jr.
(MI-14); Rep. Eric Massa (NY-29); Rose Ann DeMoro, CNA/NNOC executive
director; Mike Farrell, actor (http://www.1payer.net/videos/24-medicare-for-all/218-everybody-in-nobody-out.html);
Dr Margaret Flowers, PNHP; and John Sweeney, president AFL-CIO.
schedule permits, please participate in one or both of these actions in
Washington next week.
Quentin D. Young
Why we risked arrest for single-payer health care
Margaret Flowers, M.D.
On May 5, eight health care advocates, including myself and two other
physicians, stood up to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the Senate Finance
Committee during a "public roundtable discussion" with a simple
question: Will you allow an advocate for a single-payer national health
plan to have a seat at the table?
The answer was a loud, "Get more police!" And we were arrested and
hauled off to jail.
The fact that a national health insurance program is supported by the
majority of the public, doctors and nurses apparently means nothing to
Sen. Baucus. The fact that thousands of people in America are dying
every year because they can't get health care means nothing. The fact
that over 1 million Americans go into bankruptcy every year due to
medical debt - even though most of them had insurance when they got sick
- means nothing.
And so, as the May 5 meeting approached, we prepared for another one of
the highly scripted, well-protected events that are supposed to make up
the "health care debate" using standard tools of advocacy. We organized
call-in days and faxes to the members of the committee requesting the
presence of one single-payer advocate at the table of 15. Despite
thousands of calls and faxes, the only reply - received on the day
before the event - was, "Sorry, but no more invitations will be issued."
We knew that this couldn't be correct. We had heard Sen. Baucus say on
that very same day that "all options were on the table." And so, the
next day, we donned our suits and traveled to Washington. We had many
knowledgeable single-payer advocates in our group. And as the meeting
started, one of us, Mr. Russell Mokhiber, stood up to say that we were
here and we were ready to take a seat. And he was promptly removed from
In that moment, it all became so clear. We could write letters, phone
staffers, and fax until the machines fell apart, but we would never get
our seat at the table.
The senators understand that most people want a national health system
and that an improved Medicare for All would include everybody and
provide better health care at a lower cost. These facts mean nothing to
most of them because they respond to only one standard tool of advocacy:
money, and lots of it.
The people seated at the table represented the corporate interests:
private health insurers and big business and those who support their
agenda. The people whose voices were heard all represented organizations
which pay huge sums of money to political campaigns. These interests
profit greatly from the current health care industry and do not want
changes that will hurt their large, personal pocketbooks.
And so, we have entered a new phase in the movement for health care as a
human right: acts of civil disobedience. It is time to directly
challenge corporate interests. History has shown that in order to gain
human rights, we must be willing to speak out and risk arrest. We must
engage in actions that expose corporate fraud and corruption. We must
make our presence known.
And that is why the eight of us, knowledgeable health care advocates and
providers, most of us parents, some of us grandparents, spoke out
one-by-one at the Senate Finance Committee. And it is why we will
continue to speak out and encourage others to do the same. Our voices
must be strong enough to drown out the influence of corporate dollars.
Health care must become the civil rights movement of this decade. The
opportunity is here. And we can create a single-payer national health
Yes, we can.
Dr. Margaret Flowers is a pediatrician in Baltimore and co-chair of the
Maryland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Her
statement was co-signed by Mark Dudzic, Labor Campaign for Single Payer;
Russell Mokhiber, Single Payer Action; Carol Paris, M.D., PNHP; Katie
Robbins, Healthcare-NOW!; Pat Salomon, M.D., PNHP; Adam Schneider,
B'more Housing for All; and Kevin Zeese, ProsperityAgenda.us.
|May 5, 2009
Flowers, M.D., Physicians for a National
Health Program - Maryland chapter
PNHP, (312) 782-6006, firstname.lastname@example.org
Doctors arrested protesting exclusion of single-payer at Senate
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) reacts to protesters,
Russell Mokhiber, Single Payer Action, speaks at hearing
Margaret Flowers, MD & Katie Robbins, Healthcare-NOW
Carol Paris, MD, PNHP
Mark Dudzic, Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare
Pat Salomon, MD & Kevin Zeese
WASHINGTON - Doctors and other advocates of a national single-payer
health system - also known as an improved Medicare for All - directly
confronted senators at a Senate Finance Committee "roundtable" on health
One-by-one, eight single-payer advocates in the audience stood up during
the opening comments of the hearing and asked why single-payer experts
were being excluded from the proceedings. They each spoke out in turn
until they were removed from the committee hearing room and arrested,
one-by-one, by U.S. Capitol police.
doctors and others said that a publicly funded, privately delivered
single-payer system is the only solution to the crisis plaguing our
nation's non-system of health care, noting that single-payer national
health insurance would guarantee coverage for everyone and contains
polling that shows a clear majority of public and physician support for
a single-payer system, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate
Finance Committee, has stated on multiple occasions that single payer is
"off the table" of health reform.
round table, the second of three, consisted of 15 witnesses with no
single-payer advocates among them. By contrast, several witnesses have
direct ties to the for-profit, private health insurance industry.
doctors and activists were dressed in black, which they said was in
memory of the 22,000 people who die every year due to lack of health
insurance. They represented a coalition of single-payer advocacy
organizations including Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP),
Healthcare-NOW, Single Payer Action, Private Health Insurance Must Go,
the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics, Prosperity Agenda, and
Health Care for the Homeless.
insurance administrators are practicing medicine without a medical
license," said Dr. Margaret Flowers, co-chair of Maryland chapter of
PNHP. "The result is the suffering and death of thousands of patients
for the sake of private profit. The private health insurance industry
has a solid grip on patients, providers and legislators. It is time to
stand up and declare that health care is a human right."
the frustration of Baucus, the multiple disruptions demanding
single-payer be on the table set the tone for the second of three
roundtables on Health Reform by the Senate Finance Committee.
Robbins, assistant national coordinator of Healthcare-NOW, said: "The
current discussion on health reform is political theater at its best.
Our elected officials are hosting these events to go through the motions
of what developing effective national health policy should look like.
There is a big difference between getting health policy experts in the
room and the witnesses here today who would profit the most from reform.
That difference means our hard-earned dollars will go to further
insurance industry profits, not to guarantee health care to the American
pretty spectacular display of raw political power," said Russell
Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. "The health insurance industry demands
that not one of the 15 people who testified today shall be a
single-payer advocate. And the industry gets what it wants. It's time
for the American people to storm the gates and demand - put single payer
on the table."
payer is successfully implemented in the United States' own Medicare
system providing comprehensive care to the elderly, as well as in many
of the best health care systems in the world. A single-payer system, as
embodied in legislation H.R. 676 and S. 703, would provide guaranteed,
quality care to all Americans with no increase in U.S. health spending.
single-payer advocates said they will continue to use direct actions and
nonviolent civil disobedience to urge the inclusion of a publicly
funded, privately delivered system.
methods of communication with elected officials have failed in
delivering the demand for single-payer national health care as evidenced
by the exclusion of single-payer advocates from official hearings on
Healthcare-NOW! is a national grassroots advocacy organization in
support of single-payer national health care with a network of activists
in 42 states. More information can be found at
Payer Action is a nonprofit activist fueled organization. Find out more
Maryland Chapter Physicians for a National Health Program is a chapter
of Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org),
a nonprofit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians,
medical students and health professionals who support single-payer
national health insurance. More information can be found at
Prosperity Agenda includes single payer national health care as one of
the policy changes needed to create an economy that benefits all
Americans, not just the wealthiest.
www.prosperityagenda.us. Prosperity Agenda is an economic justice
project associated with The Campaign for Fresh Air & Clean Politics (www.FreshAirCleanPolitics.net).