Originally published Jan. 9, 2015.
The Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP branch, is turning to the Bible in his call for state lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage to impoverished adults.
“Gov. Pat McCrory and his allies in the North Carolina Senate and House are returning to Raleigh to continue their unrelenting War on the Poor,” Barber says in a statement released Friday. “The Governor and legislators of North Carolina need to be reminded of the requirements of the Constitutions they swore to uphold, drawn from Judeo-Christian values expressed in the Bible they hold when they are sworn into office. One particular scripture makes it clear that although they profess to believe in God and His sacred scriptures, their hearts and actions are far from Him: ‘Doom to you who legislate evil, Who make laws that make victims; Laws that make misery for the poor, That rob my destitute people of dignity’ (Isaiah 10, 1-4).”
Barber sent the statement in response to news of this week’s meeting between McCrory and President Obama to discuss options that would let the state craft its own version of coverage for thousands of low-income people who fall into the Medicaid gap. McCrory, unlike some legislative leaders, wants to find a way to take the money and expand Medicaid, but with conditions, such as tying eligibility to having a job or being in job training. It’s unclear whether the federal government would accept such a plan, even if he could get the General Assembly to sign on.
Barber says McCrory’s plan “deviates in substantial ways” from the intent of the program. He also cited a recent Families USA study showing that many of the people who are now shut out of affordable coverage are working people in jobs such as construction, food service and transportation, working for low wages without workplace insurance. If their income falls below the federal poverty level ($23,850 for a family of four), they can't get subsidies to buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, either.
The statement was issued on behalf of the NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement, which grew out of Moral Monday protests when the state legislature was in session in 2013 and 2014. The legislature will convene for 2015 on Wednesday, and it’s a safe bet that protesters won't be far behind.