Protesters rally against healthcare bill

Feb. 25, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

Leslie Boyd clutched to her chest a silver-framed photograph of her son, dead now almost five years.

Mike Danforth was 33. He died of colon cancer.

But really, said his mother, he died of neglect.

“He died because he couldn’t get a colonoscopy,” she said. “He died because he didn’t have insurance.”

Anyone, Boyd said, “could die like my son died — and will” if a bill in the state legislature becomes law.

Boyd and about 60 others rallied in front of Duke Chapel on a chilly Monday evening against the passage of Senate Bill 4 which would block the expansion of Medicaid to poor adults in North Carolina and keep the state out of the health benefit exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.

Sponsors of the legislation say that the federal government should carry the burden of implementing what they term an intrusive program and that states have the right to be exempted from the federal mandate to expand Medicaid eligibility.

The “Vigil for the Uninsured” brought out an array of those opposed to the bill, including students, some faculty and the Rev. William Barber II, the president of the state NAACP.

“It is sad to think that here we stand in the City of Medicine and in our legislature they are passing a bill that will make this the state of sickness,” Barber told the crowd. “Getting rid of the [social] safety net is against everything we say we believe in. It is wrong, it is dangerous and it is immoral.”

Charles van Der Host, a physician who is associate chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UNC School of Medicine, minced no words in describing the legislation.  

“I’m trying to understand it, but I don’t,” van Der Host said. “I think what the state is doing is just so dumb and mean-spirited. There are 500,000 North Carolinians, working North Carolinians, who deserve to have insurance. This is empty-headed thinking.”

It also doesn’t make economic sense, van Der Host asserted. “We are turning down money. We’re still going to have to take care of people when they are brought in by an ambulance, and it’s just going to cost all of us more. What the legislature is doing is stupid. It’s just baloney.”

Boyd had come from Candler, in the western part of the state, to take part in the vigil. Ever since her son died, she said, she had been advocating for increased health insurance coverage, contacting legislators, going to Raleigh, heading to Washington.

“How can we say no to federal dollars that would take care of people?” Boyd asked. “I’m tired of people dying. I’d give anything to have my son back. We are talking about life and death issues here. Don’t they understand that?”