Maryland pediatrician to speak on national health care in Wichita

By Deb Gruver
The Wichita Eagle, Mon, Sep. 26, 2011

Margaret Flowers tired of insurance companies telling her how long her young patients could stay in the hospital or what she could prescribe to make them feel better.

The Maryland pediatrician eventually left her private practice and is now the congressional fellow of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates a Medicare-like approach to health care for everyone.

Flowers will speak Tuesday in Wichita during a presentation sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Peace and Social Justice Center and The Group, a bipartisan women's group. Her talk is titled "Medicare and the Deficit: How to Improve Health Care and Save Money at the Same Time."

More than 18,000 physician members, medical students and other health professionals belong to Physicians for a National Health Program, Flowers said in an interview Friday.

She plans to talk about the basics of a single-payer national health insurance system and discuss "why this is a solution that would address the problems we have and how it ties into the deficit."

Flowers said surveys show that a majority of doctors favor a single-payer approach.

She said she struggled with having insurance companies dictate how she could treat her patients. She practiced for about 15 years before leaving her office four years ago.

"I was getting really upset with the way medicine is," she said. "It boils down to the power that insurance industries have... They profit very nicely."

A single payer system would cut out the middleman —insurance companies — she said, and put medical decisions in the hands of doctors and patients.

Payments would be collected by one entity — either the government or a quasi-government agency — through taxes.

Opposition to a single-payer plan is "completely political," she said.

The best way to counteract that, she said, is with education. She said she'd be happy to discuss the plan with anyone, including people who are against it.

"The beauty of this is what we're advocating for is based on evidence of what works," she said. "It's not out of self-interest that we're doing this."

She said the group she represents has "membership from all across the global spectrum from libertarians to socialists."

Flowers will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Murdock Theatre, 536 N. Broadway. There is no charge to attend the speech.

Seating is first-come, first-served.