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Dr. Margaret Flowers on Medicare for All
Medicare for all protest
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February 5, 2010

While many in Congress, the press and the public have given up on the idea of even a limited public option in health care reform, Flowers and her group, Physicians for a National Health Program, are standing firm for a single-payer plan. Specifically, they want to extend the Medicare program, which they see as a functioning single-player plan, to the nation as a whole. Flowers has testified before Congress and penned Op-Eds and she has been arrested three times in her attempts to get Congress and the White House to pay attention to single-payer.

>Read Dr. Flowers' open letter to President Obama


The term "single-payer" generally means a system in which rather than having private, for-profit insurance companies, the government runs one large non-profit insurance organization. That organization pays all the doctor, drug and hospital bills — it is the "single-payer" of all medical bills. In most single-payer plans, every American would be enrolled and would pay into the fund through taxes.

Advocates argue that a single-payer system would pay for itself, saving huge amounts of money in administrative costs. The U.S. currently pays a higher percentage of health dollars for administration than any other nation.

Critics of single-payer plans like the American Enterprise Institute say that other nation's single-payer plans are less than perfect in part because they aren't forced to compete in the marketplace. "Single-payer systems do not guarantee universal access and do not necessarily result in high-quality health care. State-run systems have trouble keeping up with changes in consumer demands and new medical technology." Other critics contend that a government-controled health care system constitutes too much government in private matters.

The U.S. also ranks highest in total cost of care, but according to a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, ranks last among industrialized countries "in preventing deaths through use of timely and effective medical care." In a recent FRONTLINE report comparing the health care systems of five other capitalist democracies, "Sick Around the World," WASHINGTON POST reporter T.R. Reid notes that, "The World Health Organization says the U.S. health care system rates 37th in the world in terms of quality and fairness. All the other rich countries do better than we do, and yet they spend a heck of a lot less."

>>Watch "Sick Around the World" to see how five other countries provide health care.


Photo by Robin Holland Dr. Margaret Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician with experience as a hospitalist at a rural hospital and in private practice. She is currently the Congressional Fellow of Physicians for a National Health Program, working on single-payer health care reform full time. In addition to her activity with PNHP, an organization of 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance, she is a member of Healthcare-Now! of Maryland and a co-founder of the Conversation Coalition for Health Care Reform. Dr. Flowers obtained her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and did her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.
Related Media:
View the JOURNAL's ongoing coverage of the debate over health care reform.

Medical practitionersWendell Potter
With almost 20 years inside the health insurance industry, Wendell Potter saw for-profit insurers hijack our health care system and put profits before patients. Now, he speaks with Bill Moyers about how those companies are standing in the way of health care reform. (July 31, 2009)

Medical practitionersReforming Health Care
Washington's abuzz about health care, but why isn't a single-payer plan an option on the table? Public Citizen's Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Physicians for a National Health Program's Dr. David Himmelstein on the political and logistical feasibility of health care reform. (May 22, 2009)

Medical practitionersDonna Smith
Bill Moyers speaks with advocate Donna Smith about how our broken system is hurting ordinary Americans. (May 22, 2009)

Medical practitionersCalifornia Nurses Association
The California Nurses Association advocates a single payer national health insurance system. (May 5, 2008)

Rachel CarsonFRONTLINE: "Sick Around the World"
FRONTLINE travels to five other wealthy capitalist democracies — Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland — to find out how they provide health care to all of their citizens far a fraction of the cost of the U.S. system.
References and Reading:
Dr. Flowers' open letter to President Obama

Physicians for a National Health Program
"Physicians for a National Health Program is a non-profit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance." The site features a fact sheet "What is Single-Payer."

Public Citizen Health Research Group
"Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts"

Side-by-side comparison the major health care reform proposals.
Assembled by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

"TIMES TOPICS: Health Care Reform"

"Why Americans Hate Single-Payer Insurance,"
Op-Ed by Paul Krugman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 28, 2009.

"Single Payer: Why Government-Run Health Care Will Harm Both Patients and Doctors"
Robert A. Book, Ph.D., The Heritage Foundation, April 3, 2009.

Footage of Dr. Flowers and Dr. Carol Paris being arrested outside the Baltimore hotel where President Obama was speaking to the GOP House Issues conference.

Footage of Dr. Flowers' attempt to deliver her letter to the president about single-payer health reform.

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In the wake of a controversial Supreme Court decision giving corporations and unions more freedom to spend on elections, many federal and state lawmakers are hoping to curb Citizens United v. FEC's effect on elections. Find out how some legislators are fighting to curb Big Money spending even as the Court invalidates laws in 24 states aimed at keeping elections clean. >>CURRENT STATE LAWS AFFECTED BY THE CASE

View highlights of our coverage of money and politics: campaign finance, lobbying, earmarks and more.

Pediatrician Margaret Flowers speaks about protesting for change and her recent arrest in an effort to get a Medicare-for-all plan back on the table.

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