Members of Virginia Organizing, the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP, Indivisible Charlottesville and other groups stood on each side of University Avenue in a demonstration Thursday evening to show their support for expanding Medicaid.
The goal of the event was to encourage the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate, who are releasing their budgets soon, to accept funds from the federal government to expand Medicaid — a federal health insurance program for low-income Americans. An expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could provide 400,000 low-income Virginians with health care.
“On February 18, known in Richmond as ‘Budget Sunday,’ the House of Delegates and Senate will release their respective budgets,” Virginia Organizing said in a press release before the event. “Virginia Organizing leaders want local legislators to fight for Medicaid expansion in this year’s budget process.”
Participants chanted and held signs such as “Call Delegate Rob Bell,” “Fund Healthcare” and “Health Care is a Right.”
Several passersby stopped and talked to the participants, and cars driving past the Rotunda honked in acknowledgment of them.
Charlottesville resident Brenda Lambert, who was unaffiliated with any of the organizations, said she hopes the legislature will break a four-year tradition of voting against Medicaid expansion. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates.
“Medicaid is keeping a lot of people alive, and we’ve got to keep it going, we’ve got to expand it,” Lambert said.
Republican legislators have expressed concern about the increasing costs of the current Medicaid program, and some have demanded that any reform include work requirements.