By Zach Myers
Indianapolis, IN (October 21, 2014) - A small group of demonstrators turned some heads in downtown Indianapolis Tuesday, with their unusual method for protesting Governor Mike Pence's stance on expanding Medicaid.
The group called "Moral Mondays" staged a mock funeral and carried a casket adorned with flowers around the state capitol building just before the start of the lunch hour.
Moral Mondays, which is a grassroots organization started in North Carolina, claim that issues involving health care are moral issues. The casket symbolized the hundreds of Hoosiers they believe will die due to a lack of health care coverage.
"Right now we have almost 300,000 Hoosiers who have no access to health care because Governor Mike Pence will not expand Medicaid," said protest organizer Andrea Smith. "Our money, our federal dollars, taxes have already paid for Medicaid expansion. There's absolutely no reason why Medicaid should not be expanded in Indiana."
Speaking to reporters earlier in the morning, Governor Pence reiterated his message that traditional Medicaid is a broken system.
"Medicaid is not a program that we should expand, it's a program that we should reform," Pence said.
The Governor wants that reform to take the shape of a program called HIP 2.0. Pence unveiled the concept earlier this year to expand the current Healthy Indiana Plan. The new version would aim to cover 350,000 low-income or uninsured Hoosiers. Currently HIP covers about 40,000 people in the state.
Governor Pence took the opportunity to speak recently with President Obama during the President's visit to Indiana. Pence said the two spoke about the Healthy Indiana Plan, and the state’s application for a federal waiver to expand health care coverage as part of HIP 2.0.
A few days later, Pence was unable to reach an agreementh with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on implimenting HIP 2.0.
Tuesday morning, he said those discussions were ongoing.
"The tension exists between those in Washington that would like to see us expand this in a way that isn't very different from traditional Medicaid, and our effort to say we want to reform Medicaid using the Healthy Indiana Plan in our state," Pence said.
Meantime, Smith said their push for expanding Medicaid will continue.
"We're not going to stop until this happens," she said. "We're not going to stop until Indiana Hoosiers get what they deserve."