NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Healthcare continues to be one of the top political issues in the country today, as evidenced by a July 24 rally in New Brunswick, which is sometimes called "the Healthcare City."
Citizens are fed up with Congress for the constant, seemingly never-ending battle over healthcare legislation, which culminated with the narrow defeat of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the early moring hours of July 28.
Both of New Jersey's Senators opposed the bill, which failed by one vote.
Four days earlier, about 35 protesters gathered at Congressman Frank Pallone's office on Church Street to urge him to take a stronger stance on healthcare. Pallone is one of the key backers of the ACA, and helped to get it passed in 2009.
As we reported, a bill to repeal the ACA has already passed the House of Representatives, and it could have devastating consequences for New Jersey's economy if it became law.
But many of New Jersey's citizens want Congress not only to preserve key parts of the Affordable Care Act; they also want to see new legislation passed to make it easier for Americans to get access to proper healthcare.
The citizens of Pallone's 6th congressional district hope that their efforts will convince their Congressman, one of the architects of the ACA, to support a bill that would expand the Medicare program to provide nationwide healthcare to all Americans.
Only time will tell if these citizens will get their wish.
Medicare is "a single-payer, national social insurance program administered by the U.S. federal government since 1966," open to citizens over age 65, according to Wikipedia.
The so-called "Medicare for All" bill, H.R. 676, would expand Medicare to allow for every citizen to receive benefits throughout their entire lifetime. The concept is sometimes referred to as "socialized medicine" or a "single-payer" healthcare system.
The bill was introduced by Representative John Conyers Jr., of Michigan, and it currently has 117 co-sponsors including New Jersey Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Donald Payne Jr., and Albio Sires.
The latest moves on this bill were on February 10, 2017 when it was sent to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.
Groups that sponsored the rally included:
- New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
- NJ Universal Healthcare Coalition
- Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
- Bus for Progress
- 15 NOW NJ
- Ocean Co Our Revolution
- Bergen Co Our Revolution
- New Labor
- Green Party NJ
- Food and Water Watch
"This is a part of the people's platform," said Jaime Romero Jr. from the Food and Water Watch. "The only way we are going to achieve the people's platform is if we all come together. It is why we are here."
Pallone represents New Jersey's Sixth Congressional district which stretches from New Brunswick down to the Jersey Shore. He also has a constituent office in Long Branch, in addition to his Washington, DC office.
Peter Jacob, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in the neighboring 7th district during the 2016 election, was in attendance at the rally outside Pallone's office.
Jacob has created an exploratory commitee to evaluate the potential of making another run for the 7th district seat.
"This is what democracy looks like. Healthcare is a right," said Jacob, adding that "There is no need in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the world, that someone should be going bankrupt or someone should be dying for the lack of healthcare."
"We need a Medicare for All healthcare plan. If we can mobilize for war, we can use our dollars to help our people here at home," said Jacob.
During the rally, protesters barged into his office with signed letters, asking him to support the bill.
Pallone was not in the office at the time, however his associates took all of the forms into consideration, but only expressed that all they could do was forward the information to Pallone.
Staff in the office decided not to comment on the rally itself, and Congressman Pallone was contacted.
"I have supported single payer for many years, but right now I’m devoting all of my energy to defeating Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act," said Pallone, who was first elected to Congress in 1988.
"If Republicans are successful, more than 20 million Americans will lose their health coverage, hundreds of billions would be cut from Medicaid, and insurance companies would once again be able to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions," the Congressman continued.
"I will continue to work to protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and all that it provides for the American people.”
After protesters left the office, they marched through downtown New Brunswick.