Doctors Challenge Exclusion of Single-Payer from Health Care Debate

May 5, 2009 Washington DC –- Doctors and other advocates of a national single-payer system–also known as Improved Medicare for All–directly confronted Senators at the Senate Finance Committee roundtable on health reform today.

The single payer advocates wanted to know why single-payer experts were being excluded from the roundtable of fifteen witnesses.

The doctors 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. It covers everyone, and contains costs.

“Why isn’t single-payer at the table today?” they asked.

Despite polling that shows a clear majority of public and physician support for a single-payer system, Senator Baucus, 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, consists of 15 witnesses with no single-payer advocates.

Doctors and activists representing a coalition of single-payer advocacy organizations including Physicians for a National Health Program, 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 dressed in black in memory of the 22,000 people who die every year due to lack of health insurance.

They spoke out at today’s Senate Finance Committee Hearing one after another during the opening comments of the discussion.

“Health insurance administrators are practicing medicine without a medical license,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, Co-Chair of Maryland chapter 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 Chairman Baucus, 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.

“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,” states Katie Robbins, Assistant National Coordinator of Healthcare-NOW!, representing thousands of citizens in support of single-payer health care.

“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 fifteen 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 HR 676 and S 703 would provide guaranteed, quality care to all Americans at the same cost of our current system.

Single-payer advocates 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.


  1. Allison Guttu on May 5, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Bravo! Thanks for disrupting the hearings and speaking out!
    Any video of the disruption? I went to CNN at about 10:10 and missed the disruptions. Will you be posting any video/audio of the disruption?
    Or know where we could find it?



  2. Alan Cayo on May 5, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Wonderful that Doctors and Nurses support Universal Health Care. Incredible that the United States is the only developed nation to deny its citizens proper health care for all. I have enjoyed free health care since the age of 21 (that is 57 years since I am now 78) through military service and the VA. The model is in place, we just need to extend it to all. The price? Surely less than un-necessary warfare and insurance premiums!!

  3. Time for Single Payer on May 5, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Hooray for those who spoke up for Single Payer!

    What can we do to get Single Payer on the Table?

  4. ProgressivePeach on May 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I agree. Single-Payer works in most other countries. The only reason Congress won’t consider it is because they’ve already been bought off by the healthcare system. How do the people rise up and get them to change their minds?

  5. Watchdog on May 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Supporters of Single Payer would better persuade an even greater percent of the public, and make it quite difficult for Insurance Industry supporters to oppose Single Payer, if it was routinely noted that for-profit health insurers are enormous investors in not only the most health-damaging industries on Wall Street (including cigarette manufacturing and Big Coal and so forth) but are also heavily invested in pharmaceuticals.

    The Conflicts-of-Interest in these areas are indefensible. Let’s hear Baucus, et al, try to explain how it’s ok that what was our health care money is used for that.

  6. Carla Rautenberg on May 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Thank God people are speaking out. We should have a million people in the street at the drop of hat over this issue. Be disruptive! You are interrupting the commission of a crime.

  7. maggie vaughn on May 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Your eloquent civil disobedience is admirable—I get SOOOO angry that the sham discussions on overhauling health care have excluded single-payer as an option!! Where is Mr Obama in all this??? If he doesn’t soon point out how lopsided this so-called health care debate is, I’ll be mightily disappointed. Are these Congresspeople DEAF to the thousands of voices calling for single-payer, or are they just thoroughly corrupt? We need to campaign against them, especially if they are up for re-election soon. I’m going to close the door and just scream for a bit….Keep up the positive push!! Your actions have made GOOD headlines. Session #3 has GOT to include ‘us’.

  8. sugarfree on May 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I cried when I read about these people and their courage to stand up. I only wish I had the resources to be there to stand with them. The protesters are true American heroes.

  9. david golden md on May 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    The insurance industry is our own home grown somali pirates. They demand 30% ransom to allow any health care reforms to go forward. They themselves have stated that if the public were given the option of private vs single payer, that single payer would win. The politicians are in the pocket of the insurance industry and get their cut in campaign contributions. Where is the press. Also getting their cut in advertising. When the government, business, and the press are all in it together that is the classic definition of a corporate oligarchy:. otherwise known as fascism.

    • Dr. Carol Paris on May 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm

      I have seen 40 patients since being arrested on Tuesday. Some have laughed at the image of their grey-haired Doctor Paris, in her black suit, pearls and pumps, being arrested. Some have cried. All have been supportive and know that my actions were on their behalf. I love being a doctor.

  10. Dr. Floyd E. McDowell, Sr. on May 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    The action for single payer reform is in the states. Sensible for at this level citizens can be competently informed and unified to enact single payer legislation at the state level. California’s State Legislature has twce passed their single payer act. Maine has passed their Act. Both were vetoed by Governors but they and other states are working to elect Governors and State Legislators who will support single payer reform. Even we are making solid progress in corporate Delaware. It’s moral and laudable to support the Conyer’s and Sander’s Acts in Congress but some 40,000 well-funded pimps on K Street have assured that all national Acts have never received over 20% support. Obama’s admonistration should have put priority on promoting and enabling single payer Acts in the states.

  11. Catherine Hunt on May 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I’m doing alot of writing congressmen, etc. and I did call Senator Baucus’ office to request single-payer representation. Also, I talk to everyone I know about single-payer, and pass out informaton, and leaflet various places. I’ve passed a petition, and I’m passing another petition for single-payer. If you look on the PNHP wevsite you will find a petition that an MD in Florida is using in his office. You can download it with some talking points, and request a poster from PNHP. I have given these materials to a friend who has a small business. They have put up the poster and are collecting signatures. I’m working on some other sites as well. Alabama’s lawmakers are not known for being progressive, but there are people who agree with single-payer Medicare for all when they actually get a chance to hear about it.

    • Susan Sullivan RN PHN MSN on May 10, 2009 at 1:53 am

      …the operative phrase here is “when they actually get a chance to hear about it…” I think that is the key reason there is such resistance to Single payer advocates being heard.. the corporate interests (healthcare, insurance, pharmaceuticals) have worked hard and done a great job of equating Single Payer with “nationalized healthcare” a concept they have mischaracterized and maligned for years…and the last thing they want is knowledgeable speakers advocating and raising awareness of the advantages of Single payer that extends Medicare to all… and how it is NOT Socialized medicine or Nationalized healthcare…and why it would work efficiently and improve health outcomes. As a retired 3rd generation RN with more than 40 years of nursing experience… I am convinced more than ever that the worst thing that ever happened to healthcare in the US was the day it was decided that healthcare should become a “for profit” industry… and it was no longer viewed as a societal service. As someone who can remember when advertising by hospitals and doctors was considered unethical and unprofessional, I have witnessed tremedous decline in alturism and professionalism and a rise in profiteering… and the true cost to our society cannot be measured, it is not only a loss of lives, it is a loss of dignity and social justice.

  12. Retta on May 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks to all we truly give a damn about this issue..Do not let it die..Organize do not Agonize…The health you save may be your own..

  13. Senator Jim Ferlo on May 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I am only disappointed that I was not aware of this event in advance or I would have gladly travelled to D.C. from the Pa. State Capitol in Harrisburg and joined in the citizen outburst for Single Payer, HR 676!! I have a very strong voice and no microphone would have been needed in those Senate Chambers! Please call on my participation in the future. Thank you to the doctors and citizen advocates who spoke up at this hearing.


    State Senator Jim Ferlo (D), PA-38th District
    Representing parts of City of Pittsburgh, Armstrong, Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties

    p.s. I am also sickened over the effort by Gov. Dean and other so-called progressives who are trying to push a “public option” alongside the private profiteering of insurance companies….this campaign is a well funded scam and they, along with should be ashamed. They make no mention of HR 676.

    • saut on May 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm

      And now Dr. Dean is trying to redefine single payer! When Ed Schultz (The Ed Show, MSNBC, May 4) asked him why single payer is not on the table, Dean replied, sure it’s on the table–as a public option! Multiple payers (private insurers plus the government) does NOT equal single payer health care and eliminates the cost savings that we’d get with HR 676.

      Next time there’s a protest in DC, let us ALL know in advance; many of us will join you in this fight for our lives.

      • John on May 6, 2009 at 12:31 pm

        Dr. Dean a progressive? I don’t think so. He’s a bit less a Clinton Republican (the counterpart of the Regan Democrats) than some other so-called progressives in Congress. I call them Repbulicarts. I suspect that we will get Single Payer Health Care the way we got Obama, from the streets.

        We need a grassroots effort to throw the bums out! Next election is in ’10. We need real progressives to support.

  14. Eliza Jane Dodd on May 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Blagoavich senate is right this is a CIRCUS where is President Obama ! This Federal Gov gave me STERIODS trying to KILL ME in 2003 and the Jackson Madison County Hospital then REFUSED to help me because they were in on the MURDER of ME ! All because they would not help me in a COUNTY HOSPITAL in Jackson Tennessee I later went to a DUKE doctor and he told me The WORKMANS COMP do this all the Time>>> MURDER !!!Murder people all over the United States of America ! These people should be BEAT who will not put SINGLE Payer on The Table !! I want to see them all HANG HIGH on the WHITE HOUSE LAWN ! Americans are COWARDS compared to EUROPEANS …The Europeans who have HUNG these Bastards ! and all the Bastards who voted them into office !

  15. rand dawson on May 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Great effort, great example, & great result in getting quotes from Sen. Baucus that best shows his insurance-industry approach to health care reform: “We need more police….The police will restore order…”

    …to which our local radio DJ said we should offer them “police stethoscopes and rubber gloves”….

  16. Diana Grillo on May 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    It was disturbing to me to hear the members laughing when this is such an important issue. We need to have Single Payer Healthcare now. Single Payer Healthcare is the only way that all Americans will be covered. The business of Healthcare should not be a business. The only way Health Insurance companies make a profit is to deny medical services. All Americans should be covered for any medical need they have. We as a Nation need to care about the medical needs of our people, and we need to stop being concerned about the profits of Insurance companies.

  17. Tim Mullins on May 5, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    We need a cure for health care in America, profit care comes ahead of patient care.

  18. Time for Single Payer on May 5, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Senator Ferlo, thank you for your support! Here are two more events we’d love you and your colleagues to speak out at:

    There WILL be a MARCH ON WASHINGTON ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 13TH, the National Lobby Day and Rally for Single-Payer in Washington DC. Find out more here:

    Also, there will be a Nationwide Day of Action in communities all over the country on Saturday, May 30th. Your Senators and Representatives will be in their districts then – plan to meet with them in your hometown. Find out more here:

  19. Time for Single Payer on May 5, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Another strategy (from an email). Write to your Newspapers and other Media, blog this, and write to your legislators the following:


    The potential H1N1 flu (swine flu) pandemic in America offers yet another example of the health risk that 1500 fragmented private health insurance corporations place on Amercians. Not all private insurance corporation formularies offer Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or zanamivir (Relenza), to patients. These treatments, the only treatments that have been shown to have any effect on H1N1 flu, may be denied outright by your insurance carrier.

    Or, physicians and patients may be required to go through the standard lengthy and expensive pre-authorization process in order to beg the bureaucrats who control the insurance company pharmacies for the most appropriate antiviral treatment for H1N1 flu.

    In addition, the disconnected electronic medical records and disease monitoring and billing systems of the 1500 separate American private health insurance companies prevents timely epidemiological diagnosis and targeting of pandemics, thereby delaying the response of doctors and public health officials.


    This possible H1N1 flue (swine flu) pandemic demonstrates yet another dangerous deficiency of private insurance companies which serve no real purpose in the health and well being of Americans.

  20. William Runkle on May 5, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    There is only one way this country can afford basic healthcare for all, and that is to take the FOR PROFIT INSURANCE COMPANIES OUT of Basic Healthcare.

  21. arlys mills on May 6, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Our many of our citizens are in crisis due to home foreclosures and the passage of HR676 could have as much impact now as the passage of the social security act had in the 30’s.
    Hr. 676 is simple and sensible. The other things bing considered are complicated will require more and more legislation and bureaucracy.
    I sent a letter similar to this to my local newspaper. They refused to print is and told me I needed to think before signing my name to the words of other people. I so offended I have cancelled my subscription. The words were mine. I think this is another way to prevent free speech.

  22. JerryinCincy on May 6, 2009 at 9:03 am

    We need a NATIONAL march on Washington now! This is in addition to any events happening locally. If we turn out in numbers during the upcoming debate and voting, we can have an impact. The Washington power brokers will never listen unless we confront them with overwhelming power in numbers.

  23. Ellen Kagan on May 6, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Bravo to those who stood up for Single Payer. It is the only way to go. If the Congress had to suffer as most of us had to do with poor health coverage, Single Payer would be passed in a moment. Most of the Congress are so beholden to the healthcare industry, that I do not see any significant change in the near future. Thank God I just got onto Medicare – which is Single Payer. It is so terrific and costs so little in comparison to health insurance.

  24. Ann Stanton on May 6, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIC….It’s about time that the American people stood up and DEMANDED to be heard. For too long the insurance industry has held us hostage if we wanted health coverage. And those who could not afford it…well, sadly, some of them are not here today for fight for this right. It’s a shame that so many politicians are in the pockets of people like this and many of those politicians should also be gone along with the private insurers.

  25. Pamella Gronemeyer on May 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    We wouldn’t have had to interrupt the meeting if we had had our seat at the table. No one who is for single payer stands to gain anything financially by seeing it enacted. Shouldn’t this tell everyone that single payer is the most logical, honest, and equitable answer for healthcare>? Max Baucus’ body language and smirk tells us what he thinks about people. He and his royalty born, mulch procuring wife who resents the fact that someone might be waited on before her at the garden shop should try living on a minimum wage and securing healthcare. What can we expect from our Senators many of whom think empathy is now a dirty word? The royal society of the Senate is too much to take! We will continue to fight for our place at the table!

  26. B. Spoon on May 7, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Keep on fighting the good fight for what is right and true. If you need someone else willing to get arrested for our cause if necessary, I volunteer.

  27. Rich Austin on May 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    During 68 years of living life, I discovered that beating around the bush is for the birds.

    Advocates for single-payer who were arrested at the Baucus/Schumer charade have shown us the way. We will not achieve true health care reform unless we force Congress to act in an ethical, humane manner. That will mean taking to the streets, work-stoppages, and other peaceful forms of civil protest to win health care justice in our country.

    Let’s face it. Too many members of Congress have their hands buried deep in the pockets of the medical-industry complex. For-profit insurers, for-profit hospitals, and Big Pharma have lavished $2.2 billion on Washington, D.C. in the past decade. How much did you give? That’s the point. Congress sells its allegiance to the highest bidder. We cannot compete on that level. What we have, however, are numbers. Numbers translate into votes. Votes elect or defeat politicians.

    Until we are able to practice ballot box revenge and remove sell-out artists in the 2010 elections, we must use our numbers to march and protest to win health care justice.

    I’ve been a union member for 43 years. Now I’m retired. I may have retired from he job but Ill never retire from my union!

    The heritage of labor is one of struggle for social and economic justice for all. We did not make gains by being timid. We took bold action to win justice. It is both angering and disappointing that HCAN has opted to adopt retreat as a strategy. Working stiffs are not being represented by so-called “leaders” who are adherents of the go-along-to-get-along brand of do-nothing-ism. HCAN hack Jason Rosenbaum is now excusing the Schumer sell-out. Schumer sits on the Senate Finance Committee and remained silent as the arrests were made. He spoke up, however, when prodded by his benefactors from the medical-industry complex. That’s when he offered the sellout. (Baucus himself is no shrinking violet when it comes to accepting gifts from the medical-industry complex. Over a span of five years they threw $1 million his way.)

    Members of Congress are banking that we do not have the guts to take action.

    Let’s not prove them right! Let’s all march on May 30, and on as many days thereafter that it takes us to make Congress do its job!

  28. Gary on May 7, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    NICE!!! I like it. Thank god for ALL of you! Government = the people! It’s not some disembodied group that does the thinking for us in the name of our “best interests”. We get what we demand!!!

  29. Ruth on May 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    They think this is a joke! Laughing like that and with the goon to the right whispering god knows what. How dare he say that this has to be decided in an open discussion when there are no single payer reps there? How is it fair if we don’t have a voice at the table?

    Bravo to all that were there and spoke up, I admire you!

  30. Paul Roden on May 7, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Hurray for the Baucus 8! It is about time people started “speaking truth to power.” We need more actions like this and expose the politicians and where there campaign money comes from. I too will join them one day, because this is a battle that has just started.
    The nice ways don’t always work. We have to wake up the public and get thme to pay attention and bring more pressure on these so called “representatives of the people” to start representing us, “we, the people”, and not the pharmaceutical, healthcare industrial complex.

  31. Thomas DeMore on May 7, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I stand with those who had the courage to speak out for single payer health care!

  32. Doug Gerash on May 7, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Speaking “out of order” is what it will take to make the change. Let’s keep up the struggle, we will and must prevail.

  33. Dr. Carol Paris on May 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Come to the March and Rally for Single Payer on May 13. For more information, go to

  34. Lib on May 8, 2009 at 10:33 am


  35. Theodore on May 9, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Wonderful and encouraging to see the brave direction action taken by my colleagues. It reminds me of the work by ACT UP in the 1980s that got AIDS issues on the table as a real health issue. Exposing the hypocrisy and double-talk by the Senators, getting these clowns out of office will be important too.

  36. Angela Oliver on May 11, 2009 at 4:08 am

    I am Australian,I have lived in the US. Currently we are in Australia. Thank god that we are as my husband got cancer. He recived the best treatment chemo etc here in Australia completly FREE.
    If we were in the US it would have cost us at least $500K.He would love to return to the US one day but because of his health he can’t.He has also had his own stem cells harvested just incase the cancer returns, This would have cost another $250K to be done in the US. It was FREE here. Americans that I spoke to in the US about the health system did not understand what they are missing. This would be the best stimulas package for all Americans. Who can afford the price of health cover and what about all the people that have pre-exsisting conditions that can get health cover like us. It is so very sad that Americans can’t have the quality of live that we do in Australia.
    Australians can still buy health insurance if they want to go to a private hospital at about $2000 per year for a family.That way they can get elective surgery when thay want and a glass of wine with their meals. But if you are seriously ill you will get treatment through the public system like my husband did. They dont let you wait if its a matter of live and death.AMERICANS SOULD NOT BE AFRAID OF A SINGLE PAYER SYSTEM, THEY SHOULD BE AFRAID OF NOT HAVING ONE.IT IS THE BEST.May husband would not be here today if we were in the US.I would not like an insurane company deciding my heath needs.