Welcome back, Dr. Flowers. In the first installment of our interview, you spoke about how you and the rest of the Baucus 8 were arrested and why single payer should be on the table while other health care alternatives are discussed.
Prior to the Senate roundtable, constituents made thousands of calls and sent emails or faxes and that didn't accomplish anything. What do you think will be effective?
It will take more direct action - meet with legislators and urge them to sign on to HR 676 or S 703, collect petition signatures and present those to your legislators with the request that they co-sponsor the legislation. If that doesn't work, then have direct actions in front of their offices, get letters in the local paper, hold health care town halls (May 30th is a National Day of Action for Single Payer - www.healthcare-now.org), knock on doors in your community and get people to sign petitions. Be creative. It will take direct pressure to have an effect. And I hope that people will come to Washington when we have rallies and marches. The next event is a march and rally on May 13th.
How has the media been on this topic?
Before our action there seemed to be a blackout on single payer. Both print and media like radio/TV. For example, Frontline and T.R. Reid did a show on health care systems in other countries called "Sick Around the World." They did a follow-up show on America called "Sick Around America." We were looking forward to the follow-up show because we expected it to talk about single payer - Medicare for All. Instead, they featured Karen Ignani, the CEO of AHIP (American Health Insurance Plans), the lobbying group for private health insurers. T.R Reid actually took his name off the project. And there was a report done by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) that documented the black-out of single payer.
Since our arrest we've gotten more attention. Actually, we expected to get very little attention, so we are glad that we've gotten some small inroads into the media and hope there will be more.
So, what can a person do?
Concerned citizens should realize that they can't trust the new administration or Congress to enact health care reform in their (the public's) best interest if we (the public) don't pay attention and demand it. The plan that they are pushing through right now is a bailout for the private insurers.
So citizens should pay attention, learn more about the issue, talk about it with others. If each of us reaches one new person a day to talk about this and urges that person to do the same, then we can reach millions of peopler quickly. And then, as I stated before, get active.
This is a rights-based movement and will only succeed if we treat it as such and stand up and say that enough is enough. This is the perfect time to create a national health system. Don't listen to the excuses that you are hearing from Washington. They are not true. We can do this!
Oh, I should add the website for Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care/National Single Payer Alliance. It is www.guranteedhealthcare4all.org. And just, please stress the fact that Congress is on a timeline. They want legislation out by August and voted on by November. The whole "health care debate" is being very scripted to lead us into a Massachusetts-style of reform. It will be too expensive and won't guarantee that everybody can get healthcare. It would be better if nothing is passed than if they push this health insurance bailout through. We need a real debate and we need leadership on this issue. We've asked Cong. Hoyer to take a leadership position. So please tell everybody that the time to be active is now. Don't wait and see what they do. We've got to push them to do better. I think this is what President Obama wants. He is a single payer advocate but he needs the grassroots movement to bring him to that because the opposition is so rich. Health care is a human right. This is a rights movement. And we can succeed.
Regarding pushing Obama to do the right thing, we certainly won’t know unless we try. Thanks to you and your colleagues for exposing the sham health care debate for what it is. Before we conclude our interview, please recap for our readers your argument for single payer.
The reason that we support single payer is that it would allow us to create a national health system that includes everybody, covers all needed care, improves health and saves money. We know that this is true from looking at other nations that have health systems and from studies that have been done here in the U.S. looking at the cost of creating a health system based on single payer. It works for a simple reason that it changes the incentive from creating profit to improving health.
Right now 30% of our health care dollars go towards bureaucracy and not to direct health care. This bureaucracy, imposed by private health insurers, is designed to restrict and deny health care. If we remove the private health insurance industry, we save around $400 billion each year on administrative costs alone. This money can be used to pay for health care.
Thank you, Dr. Flowers, for taking the time to talk with me. Good luck with your campaign for affordable health insurance that is available to all Americans.
Part one of my interview with Dr. Flowers