Kent City Council backs Medicare for All resolution backed by NEOMED students

A group of students at Northeast Ohio Medical University have gotten their wish.

Kent City Council approved a non-binding resolution supporting Medicare for All, which involves a single-payer, government-run health care system with universal health care for all Americans,

More:NEOMED students lobby Kent City Council for 'Medicare for All'

The students, with the backing of the city's board of health, first approached council in September asking for the resolution, something they say 100 other communities nationwide have supported. The students are members of Students for a National Health Program, the student-led branch of branch of Physicians for a National Health Program.

The group believes that if enough local communities support resolutions supporting the legislation, it could make a difference on a national level.

Emily Huff of Rootstown, a medical student, said she has done graduate study in a publicly funded NHS hospital in London, where she learned that "a better way was possible" than "our deeply broken health care system."

She said her medical training has showed her that Americans are forced to make "horrifying decisions between death and bankruptcy."

"To me, this is an ethical issue," she said.

Dr. Joseph Zarconi, a kidney specialist and faculty member at NEOMED, said a lack of medical insurance and underinsurance have become a public health crisis.

When a patient has kidney issues, he said his practice tries to prevent dialysis because it is costly and shortens a patient's life span. But while insured patients get a diagnostic workup and a treatment plan, uninsured patients can't afford the same workup and their disease progresses more rapidly.

"Our uninsured patients don't get to know if they have a fixable disease, don't get the many additional years of slowing their progression. They suffer more, are in and out of the hospital with complications and setbacks, and then die at an age that we would all agree is far too soon," he said "That's not fair, that's not good health care, and in the words of many of my patients, that sucks."

Councilmen John Kuhar and Garrett Ferrrara, who previously called the proposal "mediocrity for all" voted against the resolution, while all other members voted yes.

Kuhar commended the students, but said wanted to do some research on the the issue, so he spoke to administrators at a hospital, physicians and people in the insurance industry.

"Almost all of them were in agreement is that the last people you want handling your medical care is the federal government," he said.

But Councilman Roger Sidoti said the people Kuhar talked to have "vested interests."

"We need to start having a real conversation," he said.

Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer-Bish pointed out that the government already provides healthcare through Medicare and Medicaid, which has removed barriers for many people.

Many people face high deductibles in their private insurance because "we're reliant on our employers, and our employers are strapped," she said. She predicted that removing the insurance burden from employers would lead to innovation and expansion in business.

Councilman Robin Turner said the resolution is about life and death.

"This is perhaps one of the most important things we can do is make this statement here," he said.

Mayor Jerry Fiala, who didn't vote on the resolution, commended the students for their presentations, but said, "Nothing's ever free. Somebody's going to pay the bill."

Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Kent council OKs Medicare for All resolution at urging of med students