Dear PNHP Colleagues,

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.

Drs. 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."

Dr. 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 below.

The 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 appearances.

This 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 here.)

Around 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.)

If you 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 a.m.

For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Flowers via e-mail at or call her at 410-591-0892.

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 p.m.

Leading 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 (; Dr Margaret Flowers, PNHP; and John Sweeney, president AFL-CIO.

If your schedule permits, please participate in one or both of these actions in Washington next week.


Quentin D. Young              
National Coordinator       
Mark Almberg
Communications Director

Why we risked arrest for single-payer health care

By 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 the room.

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 care system.

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,



For Immediate Release Contact:
May 5, 2009 Russell Mokhiber
  Katie Robbins
  Margaret Flowers, M.D., Physicians for a National
Health Program - Maryland chapter
  Kevin Zeese,
  Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006,

Doctors arrested protesting exclusion of single-payer at Senate Finance Committee

VIDEO footage:
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 reform today.

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.

The 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 costs.

Despite 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.

Today's 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.

The 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.

"Health 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."

Much to 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.

Katie 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 people."

"It's a 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."

Single 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.

The 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.

Other 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 health reform.


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

Single Payer Action is a nonprofit activist fueled organization. Find out more at

Maryland Chapter Physicians for a National Health Program is a chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (, 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. Prosperity Agenda is an economic justice project associated with The Campaign for Fresh Air & Clean Politics (