A coalition of health care activists staged a “sick-in” this week outside of Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R-PA) mansion to protest his refusal to extend health care coverage to additional low-income Pennsylvanians. They dropped to the ground and cried out for help from their governor, who has declined to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 700,000 uninsured residents.
The crowd of protesters was comprised of union employees, nonprofits, and uninsured Pennsylvanians.
“I have been in the ER twice for high blood pressure. My bills are over $40,000 and I have no way to pay that back. This never would have happened if I had insurance,” Cheryl Jones, a home health care worker, explained at the rally. Jones is just one of thousands of health workers across the country who can’t access health insurance of their own because their governors are resisting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
Corbett — who did not personally respond to the protesters outside his residence — has repeatedly said that the cost of expanding the public health insurance program is too high, even though the federal government will completely cover it for the first three years. Outside reports have estimated that accepting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would actually financially benefit the state by bringing in $43 billion in federal funding and creating 40,000 jobs over the next decade.
The activists continued their protests throughout the week, holding overnight vigils at the Capitol building. They explained that sleeping outside the Capitol is “an attempt to show the legislature the human impact of the possible health care expansion.”
Although the protests have been peaceful, some activists have already had run-ins with the police. After one man chalked a message outside of Corbett’s mansion — “Governor Corbett has health insurance, we should too” — he was arrested for writing a “derogatory remark” about the Pennsylvania leader.
On Friday afternoon, a Pennsylvania Senate committee will consider a measure to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Protesters will camp out in the capitol to await the vote.