Our Revolution NJ held a rally outside Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) Jersey City office calling for “Medicare For All” on the 56th anniversary of the program’s creation.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
They urged Menendez to help expand Medicare by adding hearing, dental, and vision benefits, as well as an out-of-pocket cap, lowering the eligibility age from 65 to as low as possible, and enabling the Medicare program to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for everyone in America.
Anna-Marta Visky, who led the protest, called Medicare a “foundational federal program.”
“Do you think it’s time for an upgrade?,” she asked to cheers from the crowd.
She noted that while the United States is one of the richest countries in the world, it is one of the few that doesn’t have guaranteed healthcare.
“We have a unique opportunity to immediately improve the lives of tens of millions of people. Right now as we speak, powerful Democrats like Senator Menendez are discussing a reconciliation package and in fact, they’re discussing major changes to Medicare,” Visky continued.
“These changes could benefit generations of Americans. This reconciliation package can pass despite Republican obstruction and opposition. So there’s no reason why Democrats don’t all line up to pass this package. We can’t let anyone off the hook including Senator Menendez.”
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was ultimately passed through the budget reconciliation process.
Visky said that 75 percent of seniors who need hearings aids can’t afford to buy one, 68 percent of seniors can’t afford dental care, and 43 percent cannot afford vision insurance.
“This is what’s happening to older Americans in one of the richest countries in the world. We need to strengthen and expand Medicare right now to include those issues. We need to lower eligibility to as low as possible until everybody’s covered.”
She said they need to give Medicare power to negotiate lower drug prices for everyone.
Visky noted many lost their jobs and their healthcare during the pandemic and need quality healthcare. She added the expansion of Medicare would lead to great improvements of 25 million Americans.
“The proposal to lower prescription drugs cost is a game-changer because it enables Medicare to negotiate drug prices with private corporations,” Co-Chair of Our Revolution Mercer County Faris Zwirahn said.
He noted that buying insulin for diabetics costs about $450, while in Canada it only costs $21.
“If that’s evil I don’t know what is.”
Zwirahn noted Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, recently endorsed Medicare For All.
Additionally, Dr. Lloyd Alterman noted he has had many patients who had financial issues paying for medicare procedures, such as a colonoscopy.
He said that when a patient on Medicare comes into the office, “I gave a sigh of relief because it means that I don’t have to go to some bureaucrat and say “Mother may I,” Alterman noted since Medicare does not require prior authorization before tests.
Joan Farkas, of Our Revolution Monmouth, explained her mother-in-law passed recently at the age of 70 due to poor health coverage. Farkas explained that when her father-in-law retired, her mother-in-law lost her health insurance until she was eligible for Medicare herself.
“By the time she could go to a doctor, she had advanced diabetes …She hadn’t been able to have dental work in almost 15 years,” she stated.
Farkas also explained her mother-in-law didn’t even want to go to the dentist because it would still have been costly since dental insurance is separate from Medicare.
“We’re getting ready to win for working people in Jersey City,” stated Jersey City Ward B council candidate Joel Brooks, who has been endorsed by Our Revolution NJ.
He noted among those in Hudson County, 14.4 percent of those earning under $25,000 a year are uninsured.
Furthermore, almost 20 percent earning between $20 and 50,000 were uninsured, and 17.5 of Hudson County residents earning between $50,000 and $75,000 were not insured either.
“That’s a lot, a lot of residents in Hudson County before the pandemic, before the economic devastation of the pandemic,” Brooks said.
Brooks lauded Menendez for discussing the idea of adding an immigration provision to the reconciliation bill before taking aim at Mack-Cali, who owns the Harborside complex.
“Mack Cali is one of the largest property owners in Hudson County. And they should help pay for the benefits that people in Hudson County need,” Brooks said.
Visky said they had collected 3,000 signatures in New Jersey which they sought to deliver to Menendez’s office.
However, security guards would not let Visky, or anyone else including this reporter in the building, claiming they needed an appointment.
“We have the right to delivery petitions to our senator,” progressive advocate Carol Gay said.
A security guard who said his name was Navarro said to mail them instead.
Despite the fact that Visky said she received approval from the Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) to hold the rally, security guards from Mack-Cali said they were not allowed initially to protest on the sidewalk nor the street.
To that end, numerous security guards stood watch over the protest.
“I wanted to thank Mack-Cali, don’t worry we’re keeping it cool over here,” Brooks added at one point.
Steve Sandberg, a spokesman for Menendez, referred questions regarding access to building management and said the senator is in favor of universal medical coverage.
“The senator supports universal coverage and would like to see Congress tackle this with hearings and opportunities for stakeholders to weigh in so we can have a national conversation about this important issue,” he said.