The fight to persuade South Carolina's lawmakers to expand Medicaid isn't over, according to a national NAACP executive who was in Aiken on Monday for a town-hall meeting and rally.
“There is a partnership agreement between the South Carolina Baptist Convention, other church groups and the NAACP,” said the Rev. Nelson Rivers III, the NAACP's vice president of stakeholder relations. “Between now and June, our goal is to convince the General Assembly to pass Medicaid expansion, and we're working at it from the local level. This is something that is going to come up again.”
The Aiken County Branch of the NAACP hosted Monday's event, which was held at Friendship African Baptist Church on Richland Avenue. Other meetings about Medicaid expansion will take place in approximately nine other South Carolina cities in the near future, Rivers said.
Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to table an amendment that would have expanded Medicaid. In the wake of that decision, Rivers said, the strategy of the NAACP and its partners is to tell people around the Palmetto State where their local legislators stand on the issue, because many don't know what their lawmakers think. The hope is to motivate the constituents of Medicaid expansion's opponents to call for a change.
“My belief is that the State House has been overrun by evil,” Rivers declared. “They (representatives who are against Medicaid expansion) have failed the bottom-line test of someone taking the oath of office in South Carolina, which is to uphold the Constitution and look out for the welfare of the citizens of the state. They have not done what they said they would do.”
Rivers mentioned Republicans Bill Hixon, Roland Smith, Bill Taylor and Don Wells as Aiken area representatives who supported tabling the amendment that would have expanded Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the purpose of Medicaid expansion is to help uninsured and underinsured adult Americans under the age of 65 who are too poor to qualify to purchase medical coverage through the Obamacare marketplace. However, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to opt out of Medicaid expansion.
Kevin Myles, a regional field director for the NAACP who is based in Atlanta, also spoke during Aiken's town hall meeting and rally. He urged local residents to think of Medicaid expansion as a moral issue instead of a political issue. In Myles' opinion, lawmakers shouldn't oppose it just because they don't like President Barack Obama.
“Our politics have become so poisonous and so polarized that people, for the sake of their fidelity to their politics, will vote against their own interests,” Myles said. “Health care is something that everybody wants, and if you think you don't want it, just live a little bit longer. We have to remove this (Medicaid expansion) from the political discussion. It's not about politics. Some things are bigger than politics.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Rebecca Guerra, standing left, and Kevin Myles of the NAACPís Southeastern Regional Field Office, spoke during a town hall meeting and rally at the Friendship African Baptist Church on Monday night. The Aiken County Branch of the NAACP hosted the event during which Medicaid expansion was discussed. Also pictured is the Aiken NAACP branchís president, Philip Howell, who is sitting in the foreground.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES The Rev. Nelson Rivers III spoke during a town hall meeting and rally that was hosted by the Aiken County Branch of the NAACP on Monday night at Friendship African Baptist Church. Rivers is the NAACPís vice president of stakeholder relations.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES The Rev. Nelson Rivers III spoke during a town-hall meeting and rally that was hosted by the Aiken County Branch of the NAACP on Monday night .Rivers is the NAACPís vice president of stakeholder relations.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Rebecca Guerra, standing left, and Kevin Myles of the NAACPís Southeastern Regional Field Office, spoke during a town-hall meeting and rally at the Friendship African Baptist Church on Monday night. The Aiken County Branch of the NAACP hosted the event, during which Medicaid expansion was discussed. Also pictured is the Aiken NAACP branchís president, Philip Howell, sitting in the foreground.×