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Spreading the single-payer gospel: Talking health care reform in Summit County

Activist physician Margaret Flowers talks about a universal, single-payer model

By Kathryn Corazzelli
Summit (Colo.) Daily News, April 16, 2011

FRISCO, Colo. — The reason Dr. Margaret Flowers works full-time to advocate a universal, single-payer health care model, she told a packed room Thursday, is because she wasn't able to provide the quality of care she wanted to as a pediatrician. Flowers said she was pressured to see more patients in less time, and had to compromise her integrity by not being fully honest to insurance companies about patient problems.
 
Flowers is congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit research and education organization consisting of health professionals and students who support a single-payer national health insurance model. The former director of the pediatric hospital program and chief of pediatrics at a rural Maryland hospital, she left practice in 2007 to work full-time on health care reform. She is giving her presentation at numerous stops in Colorado, including Thursday's at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. The event drew a mix of the community — those who agreed, those who didn't, and some on the fence.
 
Flowers told the crowd corporate influences from insurance companies — in both the Democratic and Republican parties — have invaded the country, and made it difficult for citizens to get the care they need. She said 51 million Americans have no insurance, and over 10 million became “under-insured” in 2009. She said health administrators have grown faster than physicians in this country, and that currently, we spend one-third of our health care dollars on things that don't have anything to do with health care.
 
“We're already spending enough money to provide quality care to everyone,” she said. “We're spending more per person, per dollar, than any other nation. We're not getting a very good value for our dollar.”
 
Flowers said the single-payer system would free up more than $400 billion per year, allowing all Americans access to quality coverage, and choice of provider.
 
“There's no gaps people can fall through,” she said. “We're told we're the best. Well, we are the best ... if you have the money to pay for it.”
 
Attendees asked Flowers questions regarding the viability of the plan, including: What would happen to malpractice insurance, wouldn't care be rationed, and could it ever actually be implemented? Flowers said malpractice insurance would be reduced, care is already rationed through insurance companies (who choose what to cover), and the plan's execution is feasible — as long as citizens request it and work for it. She said it wouldn't be a perfect system, but it would be more efficient in dollars and coverage than anything else.
 
“There's a lot of propaganda on your side,” one man said. “People have to understand there's going to be rationing.”
 
Flowers said needs are met in every similar health care system studied.
 
“If we continue on the same path, we're headed down the wrong path,” she said.
 
Summit resident Emily Tracy said she attended because she's had a long-term interest in health care, and has seen faults in the current system. She said her son and his wife don't have health insurance, which worries her.
 
“I'm just constantly looking for more knowledge and more information,” said attendee Del Bush, who spent 12 years selling group insurance.
 
“I thought it was pretty interesting,” said Jeff Lynn, who is studying to be a physician's assistant.
 
“We've been getting a good turnout,” Flowers said of the Colorado tour. “In Fort Collins, we did a reception with small business owners, and this concept was new to a lot of them. I think the discussions have been really great.”
 
Flowers said a private reception before the presentation — which included community members from both political parties — sparked useful conversation about the status of America's health care, and what works and what doesn't.
 
http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20110416/NEWS/110419844/1078&ParentProfile=1055