Activists favoring expanded Medicare coverage are pressuring Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat who represents the 8th Congressional District, to sign on to Medicare for All legislation.
Earlier this month, local volunteers with National Nurses United held a car “caravan” outside of Sires’ office in West New York to call on him to cosponsor H.R. 1976, the Medicare for All Act of 2021.
The West New York nurses and other community members from the town and Hudson County gathered at the Target parking lot on Tonnele Avenue before forming a “caravan” and heading past Sires’ office on Saturday, Nov. 6. Cars of different kinds were plastered in signs with the slogan Medicare for All, parading in front of Sires’ office on Palisades Avenue.
The car “caravan” was accompanied by a mobile billboard that read “Our health care system has failed. Nurses’ prescription for the pandemic: Medicare for All!” Additionally, a similar message was projected onto the side of his office which read: “Rep. Albio Sires, when will you do the right thing and cosponsor Medicare for All?”
Calling on Rep. Sires
Sires, whose district encompasses much of Hudson County, is not yet a cosponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2021, although a majority of Democrats in Congress have signed on with a total of 118 cosponsors.
According to National Nurses United, there is large support for Medicare for All among voters in the NJ-08 district. Organizers have been reaching out to Democratic voters in the district over the last few months through texting, phone calling, and mailing regarding support for Medicare for All.
Anna-Marta Visky, with New Jersey branch of Our Revolution, told the Hudson Reporter she helped organize the event in West New York and called for Sires to take action.
“Sires is one of the four major priority targets this time around,” Visky said, describing why they want Sires to cosponsor the bill. “He’s part of the Medicare for All Caucus in Congress and he has cosponsored similar legislation in the past.”
In 2018 he cosponsored similar legislation, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.
The for-profit system ‘excludes and exploits’
“There is really no reason why now, in the middle of a pandemic, he wouldn’t be on the current bill that would provide guaranteed health care to every resident of this country,” Visky said. “Medicare for All basically is a universal single payer system that guarantees health care to everyone.”
The current for-profit healthcare system isn’t equitable for all as it stands.
“In a district like New Jersey 8th Congressional District where the residents are majority Hispanic working class communities, we really need to stand with those who, either for immigration or financial reasons, can’t use the current for-profit health care system,” she said.
According to Visky, the current system “excludes and exploits people to enrich the insurance industry’s bottom line.”
“That’s the main reason why we are also in this district, because the demographics are such that he really should be standing up for every resident’s right to quality, guaranteed, health care,” she said.
Nurses on board
Nurses, such as the ones who joined in the car “caravan,” and other healthcare workers would also benefit from the system.
“Nurses are treating patients in hospitals where people who are uninsured are turned away from the hospital’s door, people who end up in the emergency room with conditions that could have been prevented if they would have had quality healthcare early on,” Visky said.
“Nurses are the front lines of our current healthcare system, seeing firsthand what it means to be uninsured or underinsured. The for-profit system honestly kills. And they are the ones who are standing up and saying ‘This is a really inefficient and inhumane system and we care for our patients. You need to care for us as well and for the entire community and make sure that we are able to carry out our profession in a manner that is humane.’”
And in West New York and the rest of the 8th Congressional District, Visky said that affordable and humane healthcare is necessary now more than ever.
“NJ-08 as a district has working class majority Hispanic communities, and these communities are historically more likely to be uninsured or underinsured,” Visky said. “The pandemic has shown that these communities are disproportionately affected and impacted by COVID. Black and brown residents are dying at a much higher rate than white residents. We should call on all our congress people, especially those who have been sympathetic to universal single payer legislation in the past, to enact this system. This single payer universal health care system will cover everybody, regardless of immigration or financial status.”
She concluded: “We are calling on Representative Sires, as someone who has sponsored legislation in the past, to put his name on the current legislation, the Medicare for All Act of 2021.”
Sires did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.