- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Gov. Pat McCrory should call legislators to a one-day session to approve Medicaid expansion, the head of the state NAACP said Monday.

As the Rev. William Barber spoke in a church, three caskets lined the aisles to symbolize people, hospitals and jobs that advocates say have died because of the lack of health care.

“It is grievous to have to expose the despair but it is necessary,” Barber said before a march of about 150 people from the downtown Raleigh church to the Legislature and then to the governor’s office. “Not only do we need a healing, but better yet, we need people who demand nothing less than … this state to have compassion and make provisions for their care.”

At the Legislature, security allowed the protesters inside but not the caskets. Unlike the Moral Monday protests that Barber led during the legislative session that resulted in almost 1,000 arrests, this march was somber. Two protesters each went to the offices of Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis to drop off signs listing the dangers of blocking Medicaid expansion and the upside of expanding coverage, including that more than 500,000 North Carolinians would get health insurance.

“This death and sickness doesn’t have to happen if our leaders would do the right thing, the moral thing,” Barber said.

Dr. Gary Greenberg, who works at a free clinic in Raleigh, said it treats 1,400 patients on a continuing basis, most of whom would be eligible for health insurance if North Carolina expanded Medicaid. Instead, the patients are “getting what we can scrounge for them,” he said.

While the clinic does good work, it also turns away people every day, he said. “Charity is not the answer to covering the people of our state,” Greenberg said.

The protesters marched to the governor’s office in the state Capitol, where doctors and ministers left the same sign for McCrory, who wasn’t in the building.

McCrory has said in the past that he would be willing to bring lawmakers back for a special session if there is consensus on Medicaid reform.

“At this time no, we will not expand Medicaid, but the governor has continually kept the door open to the possibility of expansion in the future,” McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said Monday. “The governor’s goal is to address the issues with the current system before expanding it.”

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Follow Martha Waggoner at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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