Posted on September 22, 2009

Single Payer Activists Build Memorial on National Mall


By Russell Mokhiber
September 21, 2009

Single payer activists have set up a memorial on the National Mall for the more than 44,000 Americans who die every year from lack of health insurance.

The memorial is being sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program and Single Payer Action.

More than 3,000 American flags are planted on the mall at Constitution Avenue and 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

The memorial is framed by a large, colorful banner that reads: “Every day, 120 Americans die from lack of health care. It doesn’t have to be this way. Single payer now. Everybody in. Nobody out.”

Tourists from Denmark, Israel and other foreign countries were stunned by the death toll.

“We don’t have this in Israel,” said one Israeli tourist. “Nobody dies from lack of health insurance. We have other problems.”

A Danish tourist said — “I’m from Denmark. We don’t have this problem there.”

“Each flag represents ten American deaths,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program. “Every day, we will plant 12 additional flags — representing the 120 Americans who died that day from lack of health insurance.

“We hope that this will make the deaths, which aren’t reported regularly in the papers, visible to the public and our legislators.”

“We feel a sense of urgency, because of the growing number of preventable deaths, to pass legislation that will be truly universal and control health care costs: a publicly financed national health system often referred to as ‘single payer’. We don’t see that happening currently in Congress,” Flowers said. “It is time to join the rest of the industrialized countries, to do what civilized societies do — take care of their people. We spend the most money on health care and have poor health results. Sooner or later, we will get single payer. We’re working to get it sooner — to save lives.”

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health last week found that more than 44,000 Americans die every year — 122 every day — due to lack of health insurance.

The 44,000 dead a year estimate is about two-and-a-half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine in 2002.

The Harvard-based researchers found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

“In Canada and western Europe, the number of people who die every year from lack of health insurance is zero,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “In the United States, it’s 44,000. That’s a disgrace. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Even the most liberal health care reform bill being seriously considered by the Democrats in the House would leave 17 million people uninsured.

The bill proposed by Senator Max Baucus would leave 25 million uninsured.

That translates into about 25,000 deaths annually from lack of health insurance.

“Single payer saves lives,” Mokhiber said. “Let’s get it done.”

Mark Dudzic of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer said he’s volunteering at the memorial because “it’s important to bear witness to all of the lives that have been lost because we’re the only industrialized country that doesn’t have a humane health care system for its people.”

The memorial will be up all of this week — until 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 27, 2009.

If you would like to volunteer at the memorial, write to Dr. Margaret Flowers at