Atlanta, Jan. 27 – The fight for expansion of Medicaid in Georgia moved directly into the governor’s office inside the state Capitol when dozens of people attempted to see the state’s highest elected official. Ten protesters got through the door before police stopped the crowd and locked the others out.
When the group was told that Gov. Nathan Deal was too busy to see them, the Moral Monday Georgia activists — including a state senator, faith-based leaders, seniors and youth — decided to sit down and wait until he could find time to discuss this life-and-death matter.
Meanwhile, the 50 or more protesters prevented from accessing the office likewise sat down on the lobby floor and chanted, calling for Medicaid expansion for some 650,000 low-income Georgians who have no health care coverage.
Outside on the Capitol steps, another 150 people rallied with large banners turned to face the thousands of motorists driving by during the evening rush hour. The sound of car horns filled the air, as people responded to the call to “Honk if you agree!” to expanding Medicaid.
The Moral Majority members were still determined to present their concerns to the governor when it was declared that his office closed at 5 p.m. Capitol police then arrested the 10 on charges of obstruction and criminal trespass.
This civil disobedience action was the second demonstration organized by Moral Monday Georgia to press the state’s elected representatives to act in the interests of its poorest residents. Rural hospitals, in particular, face closure because of the unreimbursed costs of treating the uninsured in emergency rooms. Even Grady Hospital, Atlanta’s renowned teaching hospital, is looking to cut services because of the high costs of providing medical care to thousands of people who don’t have medical insurance.
Studies approximate that 600 residents of Georgia will die in the coming year because they lack affordable healthcare.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs for three years for states that open up enrollment and expand Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals. Over succeeding years, this federal support decreases to 90 percent. Currently, 25 states, have opted not to expand Medicaid. Many of these are in the South where poverty levels and the rates of preventable diseases are at record highs.
Moral Monday Georgia is also challenging the anti-people agenda of the right-wing-controlled General Assembly, and is calling for gun safety and repeal of the “stand-your-ground” lawm, while opposing education cuts and voting rights suppression.