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Single Payer Health Care Advocate to Speak in Wichita

By Diane Wahto
Announcement | September 14, 2011

Dr. Margaret Flowers, of Physicians for a National Health Program, will bring her expertise and discuss her experiences at a free presentation, "Medicare and The Deficit: How to Improve Health Care and Save Money at the Same Time," 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, at the Murdock Theater, 536 N. Broadway, Wichita, Kansas. A reception will follow the presentation. For more information call 316-440-3271.

WICHITA, Kan. - Margaret Flowers, MD, mother, pediatrician, human rights activist, crackles the phone line with her passion as she speaks about single payer health care. Dr. Flowers, of Baltimore, Maryland, is the mother of three teenagers. She trained and worked as a pediatrician until 2007, when she left her practice to become an advocate for health care reform with Physicians for a National Health Program. Because of her advocacy and activism, she was arrested when she spoke out at the Senate Finance Committee Roundtable on the Expansion of Health Insurance Coverage.

Barack Obama had as a centerpiece of his 2008 presidential campaign health care reform, an issue that had been around since Harry Truman was president. Dr. Flowers heard Pres. Obama's speak to the Illinois AFL-CIO in June, 2003. During that speech, Obama said he was in favor of a singer payer plan, a pledge Dr. Flowers addressed in a letter challenging the president in January 2010.

Dr. Flowers also supported a single payer plan, which proponents also call Medicare for All. Such a plan has worked well for recipients of Medicare and the Veterans Administration hospitals. However, after the presidential election, it became evident that Pres. Obama had backed off of his support of a single payer system. By 2009, Medicare for All was not on the table, that is, the Senate Roundtable. To Dr. Flowers' surprise, not one person who supported a single payer/Medicare for All plan was seated at the Roundtable.

Seven doctors and other single payer advocates, Dr. Flowers among them, went to the public meeting of the Roundtable, a meeting that was public only in that the public could attend. The members of the Roundtable were not interested in hearing from attendees in the audience. Despite that, Dr. Flowers and other members of her group planned to speak up and ask to be seated at the table to speak for a single payer plan.

As the Roundtable members prepared to start its opening session, Russell Mokhiber, a member of the single payer advocates group, stood and asked that because no single payer representative was at the table, if one of the physicians representing single payer in the audience could be seated at the table. He was arrested, as was Dr. Flowers, who stood to make the same request.

Dr. Flowers' background is impressive and shows her dedication to the Medicare for All cause. She is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program and serves as its Congressional Fellow. In November 2008 she joined the steering committee of the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care. Dr. Flowers is also a national board member of Healthcare Now, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to popularizing the single-payer perspective.

In addition, she is now a member of October 2011, a human rights group that is dedicated to anti-war, pro-human rights activism, which has as its creed, "Human Need, not Corporate Greed."

The statement from the October 11 web site reads:

A Call to Action - Oct. 6, 2011 and onward:

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.

Dr. Flowers sees the October 2011 organization "as a way to put all the movements together to work on single payer as a social justice issue."

Because of her activism, Dr. Flowers has been arrested five times, three for protesting in favor of a nationwide single payer health care plan and twice for anti-war protests. Even though she says, "This is not the path I intended to take," she adds that her arrests have drawn attention to these issues. Media coverage following the arrests led the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee members to ask her to testify before them in June 2009. As PNHP's Congressional Fellow, Dr. Flowers coordinates visits of single-payer advocates with congressional members and staff and assists with congressional briefings.

Currently, several members of Congress have single payer legislation ready to go, including the Conyers/Kucinich US National Health Insurance Act (HR 676). PNHP is seeking endorsers for this HR 676, according to its web site.

Further, PNHP members "continue to continue to educate members of congress and work to create arass roots educational movement among doctors," according to Dr. Flowers.

Medicare for All would create a publicly financed national health care act. The Obama-backed Affordable Health Care Act, now being phased in as it faces court challenges, is pushing people into private health care, which would require co-pays and supplemental insurance policies. According to Dr. Flowers, "We need to focus on patients, not profits." She adds that the private sector health industry spends one-third of its income on administration rather than patient care.

Under a publicly financed plan, such as Canada's, administrative costs would be approximately half that of the private sector in the United States. According the PNHP web site, Canadians are healthier and find "better health care quality" under the public system than Americans.

In addressing doctors' reluctance to support a single payer plan, Dr. Flowers says, "A lot of doctors are so busy practicing that they can"t see the forest for the trees. Most of the doctors are in a state of grieving because they don't have time to take care for their patients." She considers this an issue growing out of the private insurance industry focus on profits rather than patients, a issue a single payer plan would help solve.

Dr. Flowers will bring her expertise and discuss her experiences at a free presentation, "Medicare and The Deficit: How to Improve Health Care and Save Money at the Same Time," 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, at the Murdock Theater, 536 N. Broadway, Wichita, Kansas. A reception will follow the presentation.

Dr. Flowers' presentation is sponsored by The Group, The Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas, The League of Women Voters, and other generous supporters.

For more information call 316-440-3271.


6 Comments

Our chances to get National Health Care are slim to none. It is easier to find the extreme cases where that system has appeared to fail for an individual. I hear all the negatives (2nd hand however) of the Canadian system. I used to visit with a lot of Canadians on the internet and they all were very satisfied. I hear, first hand from many individual here in our community, about their insurance companies refusing to cooperate with their choice of physician and medication. The insurance companies are dictating procedures and medication.

McCarthyism is alive and well today. The conservatives are defeating any cooperative social reforms that come along, on the basis of 'communism'. They don't have to have any real basis. People have been sold on the fear of 'Russian Communism'. Russian stlyle communism actually came closer to dictatorial capitallism than it did to real compassionate social responsibility of man for man. Individual welfare and profit was dictated by a few at the top. That is a little like the CEOs, top level management, and major stockholders of our 'Health Care System'.

When profit becomes the determining factor for all endeavors of an individual, civilization suffers. What is civilization? It is a culture that looks after the welfare of the rich/poor, healthy/sick, big/little, etc. of all members of society. When any segment of society is allowed to dominate and ignore the rights and privilege of the others, civilization reverts back to feudalism and survival of the fittest.

Humanity without compassion and social conscience is no better than the animal kingdom, where instinct and survival dominate.


Amen to everything you say, Ken. Dr. Flowers is so upbeat, though, that if anyone can push single payer health care reform, she can. I hope a lot of Kansans come to hear her speak.


Physicians for a National Health Program, along with notable orgs like Kaiser Family Foundation and others, are publishing very important information about the impact of uninsured and under-insured on our nation's future, our local and national economies and our standing in the world - as well as the human condition of knowing that only 50% or less or our citizens can actually access the kind of life-sustaining medical services that citizens can in Taiwan, Germany, France, Japan, England and all other industrialized nations. The USA, unfortunately, ranks at the bottom of all developed nations. It doesn't matter how excellent the health care is if over half of us can't even go to the doctor for preventive care. Something is terribly wrong in our nation. Dr. Flowers and many others are fighting the good fight and deserve our support.


I like the concept of a single payer, national healthcare system but I dont know how it would work out.


Brad--My pharmacist friend also has questions about the implementation of such a plan. Dr. Flowers didn't get into specifics during her presentation and no one who asked questions afterwards addressed that issue. As much as like the idea of single payer, I think people need to know more specifics before they will be convinced that this is the right way to go.

For what it's worth, one of the audience members, a doctor from Canada now practicing in the U.S., said the Canadian system was a lot more efficient and cost-effective than the U.S. system and Canadian citizens are healthier than Americans.


I think if it ever came into being it would have to be a multi year phase in. Alot of overhead and beurocracy would have to be set up and bugs worked out in how services are to be provided, paid for, and yes at times - rationed.

Curious, why didnt anyone in the audience like you or your friend, bring this question up with Dr. Flowers?


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