NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Several dozen people marched through downtown New Brunswick this week, urging politicians to fight for universal health care in the United States.
The gathering was part of a national “Millions Marching for Medicare 4 All” demonstration, which came at a time when Republican lawmakers are looking to reduce health care benefits and funding. Democrats, meanwhile, have for months been defending President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act—a move that the New Brunswick protesters said didn't provide health insurance to enough people.
The pro-health care demonstrators began their rally outside the Church Street office of U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat, on the afternoon of July 24. They loudly voiced their support for a House bill called the United States National Health Care Act, which would guarantee health care for all Americans, they said.
“As health care continues to be privatized, there are going to be people at the bottom, and those people are the working class,” Mel Chambers, a member of the Central Jersey Democratic Socialists of America, told the crowd. “We cannot settle for this. We need to demand health care.”
The matter, participants said, was one of basic human rights.
Other speakers claimed a universal health care system could be paid for by cuts to the sprawling military budget. Carol Gay, an activist, said a so-called “Robin Hood tax” imposed on Wall Street transactions could also help pay down the tab.
“There is plenty of money out there,” she said. “We know where the money is.”
Speakers described a world in which vision plans, prescription medication, doctor's visits and more are all covered under universal health care. People, especially those with low incomes, wouldn't need to worry about premiums and the like if they were to get sick.
Advocates said universal health care would ultimately cost less than what people, businesses and governments pay for their individual or employee insurance plans now.
No representative from Pallone's office addressed the crowd.
Eventually, the protesters walked up toward George Street and turned right, settling on the expansive corner at Albany Street. There, speeches continued as people chanted and held signs at passing rush-hour traffic. Car horns beeped and drivers waved, signaling their approval.
The campaign manager for Seth Kaper-Dale's bid for governor said the issue is especially important now, given the threats to Medicaid. But then again, Geoff Herzog added, it's always been a pressing matter.
“If this is a civilized country,” Herzog asked, “then why the hell are we not on the same level as the rest of the civilized world, which provides health care to its citizens and gets better quality of life?”