About three dozen clergy members and citizens paid a visit to the N.C. Capitol Building on Tuesday, carrying with them a petition bearing some 3,000 names and asking Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to call a special legislative session to expand Medicaid coverage and extend unemployment benefits in North Carolina.
Led by Rev. William Barber, president of the state’s NAACP, the group was initially told by security that they would not be able to go beyond the building’s doorway. However, the crowd was ultimately allowed to pass through the metal detector checkpoint and gather in the Capitol rotunda. There, Christian pastors and Jewish rabbis offered prayers for their cause as a statue of George Washington gazed upon them.
McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo met with the group and received their petition, which she pledged to deliver to the governor.
“The governor would do well, rather than to stay away, to meet with us. We’ll do it any time,” Barber told Genardo. “We can do some great things in this state together, but we have got to come together around at least the fundamental principle that governments will be ultimately judged by how we treat the least of these.”
Joining Barber in delivering the petition was Rabbi Fred Guttman of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, who cited the several Republican governors in other states, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who “for economic reasons have accepted the Medicaid expansion.”
“Wouldn’t it be a great Christmas present to our state if in the next month we could take care of this humanitarian and economic issue, which would benefit close to half a million people?” Guttman asked Genardo.
Earlier this year, the GOP-led N.C. legislature rejected the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage in the state through the Affordable Care Act. Last month, McCrory said calling a special legislative session to reconsider Medicaid expansion was “out of the question” until the state’s Medicaid system was improved.
“We’re listening to North Carolinians, engaging stakeholders, reviewing new federal regulations and analyzing data about the best way to fix our Medicaid program,” McCrory said in October. “We’ll be submitting a reform plan in the spring and we will continue to evaluate what is best for the state, the Medicaid program and the healthcare needs of our citizens.”
Expanding Medicaid continues to be a partisan political issue. A survey this month from Public Policy Polling found 72 percent of Democratic voters in favor of expansion, with 68 percent of Republicans opposed and independent voters evenly split on the question. Overall, North Carolina voters favor Medicaid expansion by a 46-40 percent margin, according to the poll.
Rev. William Barber and Rabbi Fred Guttman deliver the Medicaid petition to McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo at the state Capitol Building on Tuesday.