National Medicare for All week of action begins

Thousands of people attended events across the country today to kickstart a massive organizing campaign led by Lisa McCormick and other progressive leaders in concert with National Nurses United and US Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 presidential campaign made the idea a national priority.

Volunteers in Long Branch plan to pressure New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, whose congressional committee has jurisdiction over health care.

The grassroots movement is ramping up like never before during the Medicare for All Week of Action, Feb. 9-13, as volunteers across the nation host 150 ‘barnstorm’ mass organizing meetings to kickstart canvassing and grassroots lobbying in local communities throughout the country.

“Medicare for All is supported by 70 percent of voters, but Congress will move no closer to passing legislation unless supporters make their voices heard in the fight,” said McCormick.

McCormick ran for US Senate in 2018, in part to make universal health care a reality in the United States but now the nation’s leading advocates are uniting to push for a vote in Congress to move the proposed single-payer system forward.

“We hope local activism in communities across the country will bolster support for progressive advocates pressuring lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for legislation,” said McCormick, who helped organize some of the events taking place this week in New Jersey. “Every single person in the United States should be eligible for coverage under the Medicare for All. Everybody in, nobody out. Health care is a right, not something you need to ‘qualify’ for.”

The second is scheduled for February 10, at 2:00 PM at the First Congregation Church in Montclair followed by two others on February 13, one at 5:30 PM in the Labor Education Center Auditorium at Rutgers University and the other at 6 PM at The Big Event Cafe, 1536 North Kings Highway, in Cherry Hill.

McCormick said the last one is slated for February 14, at 7:00 PM in the Bridgewater Public Library.

“With Medicare for All, Americans will benefit from the freedom and security that comes with finally separating health insurance from employment. That freedom would mean American workers would no longer have to choose between bargaining for higher wages or better health insurance,” said Sanders. “When people tell us the only thing that we can get is incremental health care change, we will tell them ‘no thanks.’ We’re thinking big and demanding fundamental change on this issue.”

“Nurses have been fighting for decades to win Medicare for All, so we are thrilled to see the movement for real health care reform in America expanding like never before,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of National Nurses United (NNU). “The barnstorms are about harnessing that momentum and continuing to build it out even further, into every community, conversation by conversation, neighbor by neighbor—until the people’s will for Medicare for All becomes the political will to get it done.”

National Nurses United, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, is the largest registered nurses union in U.S. history, with more than 150,000 members nationwide.

NNU has been fighting for the proposal since the union’s founding in 2009, is asking members and supporters to host Medicare for All “barnstorms” during a National Week of Action from February 9th to 13th.

“To build the mass collective action we know we’ll need to win, we’re asking activists like you across the country to organize a Medicare for All barnstorm in your community,” the group wrote to supporters in its petition asking for volunteers. “At the barnstorm you’d gather with volunteers near you, talk about the plan to win, and begin organizing to knock doors, make phone calls, and more in your community.”

“If nurses are calling out for Medicare for all, and studies show it would save the average American money by using our resources more effectively, then I’m on board,” Reagan said.

National Nurses United says it has 150,000 members and is the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses.

The audience at Sunday’s event will be encouraged to canvass neighborhoods, participate in phone banks and host house parties in an effort to spread public support for single-payer medical insurance, Reagan said.

She said she will be the main speaker but is “more excited to hear from my neighbors and new friends how they feel about helping their families and communities by equalizing the ability for people to easily get their medical needs met.”

She said that “connecting with each other is how we have real change.”

Proponents of a federal Medicare-for-all plan contend it would guarantee comprehensive medical coverage for the general population, reduce patient costs by eliminating insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments, and relieve employers from having to provide insurance to their workers. Opponents of such a system argue it would increase taxes and government spending, extend patient wait times and depress private-sector competition.

Polling in January by Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 56 percent of Americans favor a Medicare-for-all plan. The same poll found that far larger majorities favored incremental changes, including a Medicare buy-in plan for adults between the ages of 50 and 64.

The Commonwealth Fund reported that the percentage of American adults who are uninsured dropped from 20 percent in 2010, the year the federal Affordable Care Act became law, to 12.4 percent last year. But the 2018 rate was unchanged from 2016.

The Commonwealth Fund also said the rate of underinsured adults – people who have high insurance deductibles and out-of-pocket costs relative to their income – climbed from 23 percent in 2014 to 29 percent last year, with the greatest growth occurring among people with job-related coverage.

Employer-provided insurance “is facing a crisis now that is related to the escalating health care costs and the limited options available to them to manage those costs,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund.

“Our goal is to once and for all transform America’s broken health care structure into an improved and expanded system known as Medicare for All,” said McCormick. “Medicare for All will cover everybody, cost less than we spend now and deliver better quality because it eliminates not only waste and inefficiency, but the greed that makes consumers choose between ‘your money or your life’ when faced with illness or injuries.”

“Forty percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense, and yet we pay thousands in premiums and deductibles to the for-profit insurance industry with nothing more than a ‘promise’ of care, and ultimately enrich their executives and shareholders who take home sky-high pay,” said Anna-Marta Visky of the Monmouth County chapter of Our Revolution.

Red Bank Councilwoman Kate Triggiano told volunteers in Long Branch, “I have never believed in Medicare for All more than now,” as she shared strategies for canvassing with activists who attended and encouraged them to enlist their neighbors to support Medicare for All.

According to organizers, the goal of the “Barnstorm” events this week is to demonstrate grassroots support to encourage the New Jersey Congressional delegation to sign onto the House Medicare for All 2019 legislation.

Local grassroots organizations are hosting similar events this week in Montclair, New Brunswick, Cherry Hill and Bridgewater.

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