Philly protesters amongst those occupying Capitol for Medicaid expansion
Adding to the insanity that is budget week in Harrisburg, protesters from at least seven cities all over Pennsylvania have descended upon the Capitol to push for an expansion of Medicaid, as outlined by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
And they say they’re not leaving until something is done to open the low-income government health care for those who earn too much to currently get on its roles and too little to afford private health care.
PW has been told at least three people from Philadelphia joined protesters on Wednesday night in an attempt to sleep in the Capitol Building, but were eventually ushered out by security and chose to stay in an area Quaker Meeting House, instead.
“Some of us came to Harrisburg today, and some of us came to Harrisburg yesterday,” says Andre Butler who took the two-hour drive on a bus provided by community organizing group Fight for Philly on Tuesday. “There are some of us, like myself, who are involved in other issues, like the rally for school funding yesterday.”
Amongst the issues protesters are fighting for in addition to Medicaid expansion are money for Philadelphia’s (and others’) school budgets. FFP has made two trips to the Capitol this week to show supports on both issues. Protesters are in town from Scranton, Pittsburgh, Erie, Fayette, Altoona and other spots.
The Medicaid expansion would make all adults between the ages of 19 and 64 eligible for Medicaid, a government-run health care program meant for the extremely poor. It would raise the eligibility requirements to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Estimates say that anywhere between 500,000 and 700,000 would directly benefit from an expansion of the program, which was deemed optional when the Supreme Court ruled Obamacare constitutional. The federal government would pay for the first several years of the expansion, eventually paying for all of it.
Virtually all studies have shown Pennsylvania would benefit if Corbett took the deal from the federal government, even if he would suffer politically with the base of his own party.
Butler, a resident of Northeast Philadelphia, says he does not have health insurance and falls in between being eligible for Medicaid and being able to afford private insurance. Several legislators, he says, including Sen. Farnese (D-Philadelphia), Costa (D-Allegheny) and Hughes (D-Philadelphia), visited the protesters Wednesday to encourage their efforts.
“The public reaction was positive and the politicians were positive,” he says. “They let us know they were pushing the Medicaid expansion issue in the legislature and they were doing all they could and thanked us for standing up for the issue.”
Many Democrats, Sen. Hughes in particular, have made Medicaid expansion a huge deal in the state. Hughes held a large meeting in Philadelphia City Hall regarding the issue several months ago, and even helped get City Council to pass a resolution in support of the issue.
Butler said he didn’t run into any politicians against their protest, though it’s pretty obvious who that might be.
Republicans have been fighting against this issue publicly since last summer, when the Supremes made their ruling.
Gov. Corbett has continually made excuses against he expansion and Legislature conservatives have sent numerous letters to him and others urging against the plan. One speaker called it the idea a “poisoned chalice” at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference this year!
That said, Melissa Daniels at the Pennsylvania Independent has noted that state Rep. Eugene DiGirolamo (R-Montgomery), an expansion proponent, says 10-15 Republicans might get on board if it came up for a vote.
Butler was escorted out of the Capitol on Wednesday, he believes, around 8:30pm. However, this morning protesters headed back into the Capitol to hold a mic-check outside Gov. Corbett’s office. They’re spending the rest of the day, according to Butler, meeting with politicians and lobbying for the issues.
UPDATE: Reports are showing that overnight equipment — sleeping bags, etc. — have made their way back into the Capitol. We’re also told a protester was arrested for writing a “derogatory remark about the governor on the sidewalk” in chalk.
UPDATE 2: Protesters are still at it, now sitting in front of the Capitol holding signs reading, “Corbett makes us sick.” Think Progress has responded to the ordeal with a blog post referencing liberal blog Raging Chicken Press’ report and a copy of the police citation.
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