Spurred by a statewide organizing effort by Our Revolution, the city council of Newark, New Jersey on Wednesday passed a resolution officially declaring support for legislation to expand Medicare to all U.S. residents, guaranteeing healthcare as a right.
"The Municipal Council and the mayor of the city of Newark, Ras J. Baraka, supports and urges Congress to work toward the immediate enactment of the Medicare for All Act of 2021 (H.R. 1976) by assuring appropriate and efficient healthcare for all residents of the United States," reads the resolution.
Our Revolution New Jersey has now successfully pushed 15 cities across the state to pass similar resolutions, while more than 100 counties, cities, and towns across the U.S. have backed Medicare for All.
In recent weeks, Cleveland and Boulder County, Colorado passed resolutions. Other cities backing the legislation include Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.
Newark's resolution was applauded by the People's Organization for Progress, a grassroots group based in the city.
"It is absolutely reprehensible that the United States, the richest country in the world, does not have free universal healthcare when most of the other wealthy nations provide this benefit to their citizens," said Lawrence Hamm, the group's chairman. "The resolution brings us one step closer to making Medicare for All a reality in the U.S. during our lifetime."
Campaigners in New Jersey have ramped up efforts to convince local lawmakers to back Medicare for All—which is supported by nearly 7 in 10 Americans—following a 20% premium increase in the state health benefit plan. The out-of-pocket healthcare cost hike came on the heels of a vote by lawmakers to allow the state health plan to operate as a for-profit entity.
"At a time when health insurance companies are making record profits, plans to increase health care costs for New Jersey public employees are a betrayal of thousands of hardworking members of Newark's municipal family, who are already being harshly impacted by rising costs of living," said Baraka when the premium increase was announced in September.
Nearly 20% of people under the age of 65 in New Jersey do not have health insurance, and a report released in September by Healthcare Value Hub showed that 36% of state residents were unable to get care when they needed it due to medical debt.
"Medical debt represents a crushing weight on many families in our community," said Matt Dragon, co-chair of Our Revolution Essex County. "Deferring or skipping medical care due to the cost exacerbates the health impacts for individuals, creates higher costs down the road, and in some cases ends in a loved one gone far too soon. Medicare for All also represents a racial justice policy as uninsurance rates in Black and Hispanic communities outpace those of white populations."
Our Revolution New Jersey expressed gratitude to Baraka, who championed the resolution.
"Medicare for All represents conscientious policy that is not based on zip code, class, economic status, etc. but is designed for everyone," said Baraka. "Here in Newark, we make sure that the needs of our residents are at the forefront of our initiatives, policies, and legislation through an equitable lens. The passing of today's resolution affirms our stance and makes clear: Newark will always work to advance the quality of life of its residents and having affordable and adequate healthcare is important to our community."