Doctor arrested twice in bid for reform

Speaker at Sunday event backs single-payer plan

By CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY, Staff writer
Albany (N.Y.) Times Union
Friday, February 5, 2010

The keynote speaker at an upcoming forum on health reform has two arrests to prove her devotion to her cause.

Dr. Carol Paris, a Maryland psychiatrist, was arrested at a U.S. Senate hearing in June after she stood up and asked senators to consider a single-payer system. Paris was arrested again a week ago while trying to deliver a letter to President Barrack Obama.

"We have to get this message to the President and it's worth it to stand our ground," Paris said in a telephone interview.

Paris is speaking Sunday at an event titled "Can We Survive Health Care 'Reform," sponsored by the Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare and local groups that support a single-payer health system. The event will be held from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, 405 Washington Ave. Rep. Paul Tonko, an Amsterdam Democrat, is also scheduled to appear.

Under a single-payer system, the government reimburses doctors and hospitals for medical services. But the option has been not been part of the health reform debate in Washington, D.C.

"People are frustrated and bullied by their insurance companies," Paris said. "I spend more time figuring out how to work around an insurance company and a pharmaceutical benefits package -- trying to get my patients the medicine they need and not have them go broke when their co-pays and deductibles keep going up and their coverage keeps going down."

Paris was arrested in June at a hearing chaired by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. She and other protesters spread out through the audience and stood up at different times and said, "I interrupt this so-called public hearing to bring you the following unpaid political announcement: Put single payer on the table."

Her more recent arrest was outside a Baltimore hotel where Obama was speaking. Paris said her colleague, Dr. Margaret Flowers, had written a letter in response to Obama's State of the Union speech where he challenged anyone to show him a better health reform plan. "Let me know," he said. "I'm eager to see it."

Paris believes single payer is a better alternative and wanted to let Obama in on it. Flowers had tried to deliver the letter by hand at the White House, but the guards would not take it. So the pair took their battle to the Baltimore hotel where they believed Obama's motorcade would pass. Hotel security told them to move, but they wouldn't. The Secret Service came out but refused to deliver their letter to the President, Paris said.

The whole exchange was polite on both sides, she said, but they wouldn't budge so they were arrested.

Single payer "is still being completely ignored," Paris said. "By ignoring it from the get go and trying to convince people that the public option was a first step, we have seen how that has devolved over time and now the legislation is stalled simply as a virtue of the fact that it is ineffective."

Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at 454-5348 or