SEIU Activists Across U.S. South Seek to Unseat Governors for Failure to Expand Medicaid
Photograph courtesy of Steve Eberhardt.
(APN) ATLANTA — On May 31, 2014, over 250 community leaders and union activists from eight states across the U.S. South held a rally at the Martin Luther King Center to kick off a campaign to call on Southern Governors to stop denying millions of citizens access to healthcare and instead expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
People came from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, representing workers in healthcare, fast food, laundry, janitorial work, and other industries. The one thing they all have in common is their state has not passed Medicaid expansion per the ACA.
Union members with Workers United Southern Region (WUSR) – Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are in Atlanta for their annual regional conference and at the top of their priority list is the expansion of Medicaid.
“We are here today because in our region we have over two million people denied health insurance under the ACA. The reason is because Southern Governors have made the choice to block it… We are fed up, and in the Fall we are going to back candidates who will help us get Medicaid expansion. We are going to knock on doors and register voters. It may not happen this election, but this is a long term strategy and we will win,” Chris Baumann, an organizer with WUSR/SEIU told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Just as during the Civil Rights Era, Southern Governors stood in school house doorways to block integration, now they are practically standing in hospital doorways to not only block additional deserving citizens from receiving health care, but also to prevent our health care system from receiving the financing that it needs to serve us all,” Harris Raynor, Southern Regional Director for WUSR/SEIU said in a media advisory.
“We have seen rural hospitals closing, we’ve seen the suffering of people… this whole system does not work if Governors are more interested in sabotaging the ACA than in actually serving their own people and getting them medical benefits,” Raynor told APN.
Last fall, Bloomberg reported that at least five public hospitals in Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia–including three in Georgia–were cutting staff and services in the wake of their refusal to expand Medicaid.
“It’s hard to make somebody understand problems that you have, when they have never faced those problems in their lives,” Cicero Hall, a union worker, said at the rally. “In North Carolina, we are going to change the Governor’s mind or we will change the Governor.”
The following statistics are based on Sommers, Baicker, and Epstein’s Harvard School of Public Health study that projects lives that could be saved by Medicaid expansion in eight Southern states:
Alabama has 191,320 projected uninsured and with Medicaid expansion 1,087 of those lives could be saved in 2014.
Florida has 763,890 projected uninsured with 4,340 lives that could be saved.
Georgia has 409,350 projected uninsured with 2,326 lives that could be saved.
Mississippi has 137,800 projected uninsured with 783 lives that could be saved.
North Carolina has 318,710 projected uninsured with 1,811 lives that could be saved.
South Carolina has 194,330 projected uninsured with 1,104 lives that could be saved.
Tennessee has 161,650 projected uninsured with 918 lives that could be saved.
Virginia has 190,840 projected insured with 1,084 lives that could be saved.
This makes for a total of 13,453 lives that could be saved in these states this year with the expansion of Medicaid.