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39 Arrested in Moral Monday Protest for Medicaid Expansion in Georgia
Photographs by Gloria Tatum.
(APN) ATLANTA -- On the ninth Moral Monday Georgia action day at the state capitol, although held on a Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 39 people were arrested inside the Georgia Capitol protesting Gov. Deal and the Legislature's refusal to expand Medicaid in Georgia pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.
The first wave of protests consisted of four groups who stood up at different times and shouted "Expand Medicaid!" and hung banners over the Senate balcony.
After three disruptions in the Senate Gallery, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle warned that if another disruption happened, the gallery would be cleared.
Another group stood up and shouted "Expand Medicaid!" and the gallery was emptied and closed. Sixteen people were arrested in the Senate Gallery interruptions.
At 1pm, activists held a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda; afterward, everyone walked to the Governor's office to make another request for Medicaid expansion. The Governor was not in his office at the time. The twelve who volunteered to be arrested, sat on the floor and waited for the Capitol police to handcuff them and take them to Rice Street Jail.
In the second wave, several prominent leaders were arrested including Rev. Francys Johnson, President, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Georgia chapter; Rev. Raphael Warnock, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church; John Evans, President, NAACP DeKalb chapter; and Rev. Fred Taylor, long-time civil rights leader.
A third wave of disruptions blocked the door to the Senate chamber around 3pm with ten arrests. An additional person was arrested on the second floor.
During all three waves of disruptions, the arrestees chanted "Expand Medicaid" and " Georgia Lives Matter. They were charged with violation of OCGA 16-11-34, interfering with Legislative Session.
The Senate Gallery arrests were Shayna Adelman, Gregory Ames, Joe Beasley, Marguerite Casey, Lorraine Fontana, Emma French, Bob Goodman, Gary Kennedy, Edward Loring, Ray Miklethun, Minnie Ruffin, Richard Miles Rustay, John Slaughter, Emma Stitt, and Morgan Swann.
The Governor's Office arrests were Katherine Acker, Ronald Allen, Don Bender, Jeffrey Benoit, Evans, Rev. Johnson, George Johnson, Shanan Eugene Jones, Karen Reagle, Rev. Fred Douglas Taylor, Rev. Warnock, and George Watson, Jr.
The Senate Chamber Door arrests were Dawn Gibson, Sara Gregory, Daniel Hanley,
Corey Hardiman, Emilia Kaiser, Atlanta Progressive News Staff Writer Kevin Moran, Jackie Rodriguez, Neil Sardana, Michael Schumn, and Bert Skellie.
Misty Novich was arrested separately for chanting "Expand Medicaid" on the second floor of the capital while the third group was being taken to a holding room on the first floor.
Gov. Deal has the authority to expand Medicaid to 650,000 Georgia citizens, some who will die without this expanded health care. Instead, the Governor refused to expand Medicaid. Now the State Legislature is working to pass a bill to prevent the Governor from expanding Medicaid even if he wanted to.
"The Georgia state government's right wing agenda promotes corporate greed over people's needs; denies healthcare to over 600,000 uninsured Georgians; has cut over $7.6 billion from public education in the past 10 years; accelerates income inequality by restricting worker's rights and benefits; attacks women's reproductive freedom; promotes bigotry toward the LGBT community, enables gun violence through Stand Your Ground and Carry Guns Anywhere laws; and restricts our voting rights," Moral Monday's press release states.
"We are here today as the NAACP, as labor, as faith, as a broad coalition of the 'ain't going to take it no more.’ To say that we the people, finally means we the people. Not just the well oiled and silk stocking… persons of the elite, but everybody. The Legislators and Governor have put politics over people for too long," Rev. Johnson said.
"Here is why they are desperate in passing local legislation to reduce the number of seats on Boards and Commissions, because they know a change is coming to Georgia," Rev. Johnson said.
"We are here today on a mission that is a matter of life and death. We cannot be silent because silence is consent, silence is agreement with the status quo, silence is unconscionable capitulation to the political games that are being played in this Capitol," Rev. Warnock said..
"Governor Deal, expand Medicaid not only because it is right morally, do so because it is smart economically. An investment of about one percent of the state budget, 2.1 billion dollars over the next ten years, will bring in new federal funding creating more than 65 billion dollars in new economic activity in Georgia over ten years. Supporting more than 65 thousand new jobs throughout the state. Deal needs to take the deal," Rev. Warnock said.
According to a Georgia State University report, approximately 70,342 jobs would be created by Medicaid expansion in Georgia.
The federal government would pay one hundred percent of Medicaid expansion for the first three years and cover 90 percent of the costs afterward.
A new study released by the Commonwealth Fund says Georgia could see a net loss of 2.9 billion dollars in the year 2022, if it continues to reject Medicaid expansion. That is because Georgia would be paying for expansion of Medicaid in other states, while not getting anything in return, according to Georgia Health News.
Currently, Medicaid in Georgia only covers adults with children with incomes less than 39 percent of the federal poverty level. Adults without children are not eligible for Medicaid. Their only option is go to the emergency room what often are primary care issues that escalate without treatment; however, Deal wants to also close that option for poor and sick citizens.
Georgia is home to the fifth largest uninsured population in the country. Half of all Georgia's working adults below 138 percent of the poverty level--$15,000 for an individual or $26,000 for a family of three--go without health coverage.
Harriet Bradley, Co-Chair of 9 to 5 Working Women in Atlanta recalled to APN her encounter and conversation with Gov. Deal on Medicaid expansion, recently at the State Capitol. She is one of those people who falls in the gap of ineligible for Medicaid, but unable to afford health care.
"I am a caregiver making $7.25 an hour and have been making that for eight years. I don't have any health benefits, I don't have any sick days and if I don't work I don't get paid. I'm one of thousands of people in Georgia that would benefit from having Medicaid expansion. Please approve it, so we can have health insurance," Bradley said she asked Gov. Deal.
"Thank you for your opinion," was Gov. Deal’s answer to Bradley, she said.
"I am here today to tell Governor Deal that is not my opinion, I represent many people that are living without health care that he denied us by not expanding Medicaid," Bradley said at the press conference.
"Without the expansion of Medicaid, people will die. It is a non-judicial death sentence… So I stand here to articulate the cry of the poor on behalf of the goodness, morality, and truthfulness of life," Rev. Ed Loring, Open Door Community, and an arrestee, said.
73 people have volunteered this Legislative Session to commit non-violent civil disobedience at the Capitol.
As previously reported by APN, ten people went to jail on January 24, 2014, in support of Medicaid expansion; 39 yesterday. 24 others went to jail on February 10 to repeal Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws in Georgia.
Civil disobedience was practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, and others, to bring about social justice.
32 of the 33 developed nations have universal health care, with the U.S. being the lone exception. Seventeen countries have a two-tier or insurance mandate which means public and private insurance and medical providers. Fifteen counties have single-payer or government-only health care. ACA is an attempt to bring the United States into the 21st century and in alignment with other developed countries. These statistics were compiled from the World Health Organization.
Twenty five U.S. states have not expanded Medicaid, mostly in the South, Southwest, and Central regions of the U.S.
The Georgia Hospital Association, which represents 174 hospitals across Georgia, supports the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
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